Curiosity & Wonder - Preschool at Waterford

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Curiosity & Wonder in Waterford Preschool

PREK LEARNING AT WATERFORD SCHOOL

Most often, when alumni are asked what they gained from their Waterford education, they reply emphatically: a love of learning! Long-time PreK teacher, Kristie Jensen shares that, “Curiosity and wonder are the words that come to mind when laying a foundation for the love of learning. Children are not empty vessels to be filled; rather, children are born ready to learn, with minds like sponges, and it is our honor to teach them and watch them soak up information in an environment through creativity, collaboration and communication.”

Preschool at Waterford
A preschool student's world expands around bubbles, Photo by Heather Mortenson

She continues to describe Waterford’s early childhood program noting that, “each classroom not only has two amazingly ready-to-connect, educated, and enlightened teachers, but there is a third teacher, the environment, a crucial element to the learning experience. Each of Waterford's Preschool classrooms is arranged indoors and outside to capture each child’s wonder and curiosity, so that they flourish.”

Students are greeted by their teachers in a familiar hallway each day—red brick walls, student art-filled bulletin boards eliciting exclamations of “there’s mine!”; and soft, blue carpet. Upon entering the classroom’s open, wooden door, inquisitive eyes look around at attainably-sized tables and shelves—a classroom built to scale to encourage independence and agency in learning. Waterford’s youngest students spend precious hours at Waterford School, beginning a very intentional journey of learning that nurtures their minds and bodies with peer play and guidance from talented and experienced teachers. 

"Children are born ready to learn, with minds like sponges, and it is our honor to teach them and watch them soak up information in an environment through creativity, collaboration and communication." - Kristie Jensen, PreK Teacher

And beyond the outer walls of their classroom, PreK students are now welcomed by the Outdoor Classroom. Completed in 2018, this research-based outdoor learning space adds new opportunities for play; filled with unbounded ideas, hypothesis-testing and role-playing. It is on this playground that three and four year-olds build a restaurant, launch a spaceship to the moon, and float hand-built miniature boats down little streams of water. “Their exploration and imagination spurs their thirst for learning,” says PreK teacher, Erin Knight, “And the students feel safe in this environment, not just physically, but cognitively because they know what to expect and how to take risks, and this is what allows our students to broaden their minds and horizons.”

Waterford School Preschool
A preschool student's castle rises above the Outdoor Classroom.
Photo by Heather Mortenson

Our PreK teachers have a combined 124 years of teaching, and specifically 80 years in the PreK classroom. These years of experience, a highly-practiced curriculum, and intentionally-crafted daily schedule provide the rich context for learning. Our young students arrive ready to learn, ready to solve problems, and begin to understand that there will always be questions when learning, but there will also be friends and teachers to help find the answers. 

And so, as curiosity and wonder ignite the innate spark within children, what they learn at Waterford is a consequence of their experiences, activities, observations, explorations, inquiry, hands-on learning, joy, and play in the Preschool program. It is indeed, a wonderful place to be.