In fall 2018, The Croft School will open to 16 pre-kindergarten students and 16 kindergarten students. A world-class teacher and an associate teacher will lead each classroom.
Each subsequent year, The Croft School will grow by one grade, ultimately expanding into a small pre-kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school community by the 2023-2024 school year. At capacity, the school will serve 112 students.
A Croft Education
A Croft Education is a joyful, rigorous, and personalized elementary school experience, shared and treasured by each small cohort of motivated, curious, and respectful students.
By the end of fifth grade, Croft graduates will have mastered advanced math and literacy skills they need to succeed in top-quality public or private middle school programs. They will be able to deeply analyze what they learn and read, and they will be able to write with structure, clarity, and detail. They will have conceptual understandings of essential aspects of science, geography, history, and world cultures, and will be able to detect systems and relationships among different parts of the physical world. They will be approaching excellence in one or more skills – a foreign language, a musical instrument, or coding, for example.
As importantly, Croft graduates will find both school and learning to be enjoyable and fun. They will be substantially independent in their studying, requiring less guidance and support from adults and teachers than most of their peers. They will have developed requisite social and emotional skills, including self-confidence and excellent ability to interact with peers and adults alike, that will be beneficial as they navigate middle school. They will have an understanding of and appreciation for the vibrant local community, and its diversity, as well as the world beyond it. They will approach each day with a service mindset, seeking ways which they can help make their community a better place.
Lastly, Croft graduates will have developed lifelong friendships and bonds with a small community of classmates and teachers who will be proud to have blazed the trail of a new independent school, with hundreds of future Croft students ready to follow in their footsteps.
Our Beliefs and Outcomes
Our Beliefs. At Croft, we believe that young children have an intrinsic desire to learn, and that teaching and learning – through investigation and exploration – must build on each child’s natural interests and curiosity. We believe that warm and positive relationships are paramount and that 4- and 5-year olds learn through their interactions with their family, teachers, and peers. We believe that learning is fluid; social and emotional skills, cognition, motor and perceptual skills, and literacy can and should be developed simultaneously through intentional activities. We believe that play is important, allowing for deep engagement and understanding by creating and revisiting experiences connected to the curriculum. And we believe that children must have many opportunities for choice.
We approach the design of our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs with balance and intentionality as guiding principles. We offer a balance between structured academic time and purposeful play; a balance between academics and social-emotional learning; a balance of both active and quiet time; and a balance of both indoor and outdoor learning. We are intentional in our annual and daily planning; every moment of every school day is thoughtfully planned to facilitate children’s learning and enjoyment. We take every opportunity to meet each child at his or her developmental level, including through the use of small, mixed-age groupings, when appropriate.
Pre-Kindergarten Outcomes. As our pre-kindergarten students move on to kindergarten, it is vital for our students to view school as fun, exciting, and caring, as such perspective can lay the foundation for lifelong curiosity and learning. Further, at the end of their Croft pre-kindergarten year, students will have made significant, meaningful progress in language and literacy, mathematics, problem-solving, and social and emotional skills (e.g., listening and paying attention, making friends, navigating conflicts, inhibiting impulses like talking out).
Kindergarten Outcomes. Kindergarten is a fundamental year in the lives of children, and we take our responsibility for educating our 5-year old learners seriously. We strive to ensure each child, above all else, enhances their love of learning and reading during the year. Our students will build an outstanding core academic foundation in literacy, writing and mathematics, as well as understand how the world works (a “systems mindset”) through hands-on science and social studies theme-based projects. They will have frequent opportunities to engage in play as well as physical activity. They will discover new interests and develop one or more unique skills. As importantly, we help create an environment where students make friendships and improve their ability to get along with and work with others; enjoy a heightened self-esteem; get first-hand exposure to, and an understanding of, the local community and world cultures; and begin to develop an ethos of service.
Key Components: Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten
Morning Meeting. Our morning meeting is an active learning time. It is time for rhyming and singing, word and math games, and classmate sharing. It is a time for building a positive and respectful classroom community, as well as celebrating the amazing attributes each child contributes to the classroom. It is a time to establish rituals and routines that are fun and help foster an organized learning environment. Most importantly, it is a time for our teachers to ask thoughtful, evolving questions which help students construct ideas rather than simply receive information.
Literacy and Writing. The process of learning to read is highly complex. Research shows that it is important for 4- and 5-year olds to develop the foundations of reading. It is important for them to hear a rich vocabulary, engage in conversations with peers and adults, and to be read to frequently.
At Croft, we approach literacy with a balanced approach. Our students learn both to understand the meaning of what they read as well as how to decode words and sentences. In addition to ensuring our classroom is awash in language and literacy materials and activities, incorporated organically though the whole day, literacy and writing are taught in teacher-led small groups. These small groups take the form of phonics lessons and a reading and writing workshop model. We utilize a dynamic grouping strategy to enable students to accelerate literacy and writing growth at just the right pace for each child, ensuring the pace at which each student moves through the curriculum is developmentally appropriate.
Our literacy curriculum is aligned with rigorous national curriculum standards intended to ensure all students build the foundation to be on a college preparatory track as they grow older.
Mathematics. Research shows that children who have a strong foundation of math skills in the earliest years do better in math, and even reading, all the way through school. Research also shows that 4- and 5-year olds are capable of understanding advanced concepts like addition and subtraction – if they are asked questions in the right way. Our math curriculum, facilitated through small group instruction, is made up of hands-on, authentic activities. The instruction is matched to each stage of a child’s math learning trajectory, so that our teachers can help children build their skills to reach successively higher levels of thinking, ultimately mastering concepts like creating patterns and using data to solve problems.
Recess / Outdoor Activity. We value outdoor recess and physical activity time. When the weather is nice, we will go outside for students to engage in fun, physical activity. On cold or rainy days, we will leverage both indoor games that involve physical activity and we will partner with local gymnasiums to use their space.
Purposeful Play. We believe in learning through play. Whether constructing buildings out of blocks, cooking up a meal in the ‘kitchen,’ dressing up in costumes, or taking on an acting role in dramatic play, our purposeful play time is great opportunity for students to use their imagination as well as to build social and emotional skills.
Exploration: Science and Social Studies Project-Based Learning. We facilitate a progressive, hands-on approach to science and social studies. Our curriculum centers on quarterly “themes” that allow for a cross-disciplinary exploration of essential questions. For example, consider “Measurement” as a theme. Measurement is an interdisciplinary and complex concept that reveals cultural practices and human values, while it is also a tool to deepen our understanding of the world around us. A variety of associated readings, writing practice, classroom discussions, and projects – bridge construction, quilt sewing, and a cross-cultural cooking exposition, for example – could all stem from a central theme of “Measurement.” The curriculum is designed to help make these content areas come alive for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students in exciting ways, and to help students understand how different parts of the world relate to one another.
Skill-Based Experiences. Unfortunately, most pre-K and kindergarten programs don’t provide access to courses, projects, and experiences that are truly aligned with each individual student’s emerging interests. Moreover, the curriculum can be limited by what is prescribed for the whole class, thereby limiting exposure to a wide variety of activities that could spark new interests. It doesn’t have to be this way!
During our 30-minute daily Experiences time, each individual student (with the support of their family) selects an “experience” – from Croft’s curated menu of twenty-five options designed for 4- and 5-year olds – that helps them practice, learn, and enjoy a particular skill. We encourage students to remain with each experience for at least two weeks.
Consider this piano experience, as an example:
- Gio takes piano lessons online with his keyboard and Hoffman Academy. He uses practice tasks to master the songs he learns in each unit.
- As quick breaks from his lessons, Gio plays Magic Piano and Piano Dust Buster, two games focused on piano practice.
- Gio enjoys making his own musical arrangements with Toc and Roll, and spends time on the piano playing around making original melodies.
- For the last 5-10 minutes of his experience block, Gio listens to the music of famous pianists and doodles in his notebook. He marks whether he likes or doesn’t like the music he listened to that day.
- After completing Units 1-4 of his piano lessons, Gio performs three songs he learned on Hoffman Academy and one melody he wrote at a recital for his classmates and family.
- Once per week, Gio gets access to a piano teacher who provides in-person piano instruction to Gio and any classmates who have chosen the same experience.
Expeditions: Weekly Community Trips and Virtual Global Trips. On a weekly basis, our teachers and students, along with parent participants, will take a trip within Providence or throughout Rhode Island. Examples of trip destinations include museums, historical sites, local nonprofits, farms, local businesses, the shore, the theatre, art or music studios, universities, cafés, and outdoor spaces, among others. In addition to the educational value trips will provide, we aspire to expose our students to a wide array of resources and people that the community has to offer.
Even with such trips, we know there are limits to what our students can see and experience within the local community. Therefore, we also use virtual reality for two purposes: to provide each child with access to a “pen pal” from somewhere else in the world and to take virtual teacher-led “trips” that will help expose students to a wide variety of geographies and cultures.
Our intention is for our school program to culminate, during 5th grade, with an international class trip.
Other Program Elements.
- Arrival Play Activities. We believe it is important for students to quickly and seamlessly engage in the day upon arrival.
- Read Aloud. Every day includes read-aloud time, opportunities for children to further develop their listening and comprehension skills, as well as be swept away in the beauty of stories.
- Independent Reading. Even for students who are just beginning to learn to read, the opportunity to have quiet individual or partner time with a book is an essential foundation of learning to and loving to read.
- Healthy AM Snack and Lunch. We intend to partner with a healthy food provider like Revolution Foods to offer quality, nutritious snacks and lunches that kids love. Our vendor will place an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, with no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.
- Rest Time. Every afternoon, our pre-kindergarten students will have quiet time to allow them to “recharge” for the rest of the day.
Future Grades (1-5)
As noted above, beginning in the 2019-20 school year, the Croft School will add one grade level per year, ultimately expanding into a small pre-kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school community by the 2023-2024 school year. At capacity, the school will serve 112 students with 11 educators.
We intend to leverage unique city resources and real estate to develop our school community across three distinct learning environments: one designed for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade; one designed for 2nd and 3rd grades; and one designed for 4th and 5th grades. Each space will be tailored and themed to meet the learning and other needs of the respective age group it serves.
Our middle and upper elementary programs will be rooted in the same attributes and approaches, adjusted for grade-level appropriateness, as our early elementary grades: top 1% teachers; a fun, challenging, and personalized approach to curriculum and teaching; a small, friendly environment and relationships-driven approach; a unique approach to families; and an outstanding overall experience at a lower tuition point.