The primary components of our Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms are:
OUTDOOR AND INTEREST-DRIVEN PLAY
We believe in learning through play in both Kindergarten and Grade 1. During Purposeful Play, our play-based centers are designed in response to our students’ most recently expressed interests. Whether constructing buildings out of blocks, cooking up a meal in the ‘kitchen,’ dressing up in dramatic costumes, designing creatures with clay, or taking on an acting role in dramatic play, our purposeful play time is a great opportunity for students to use their imagination as well as to build social and emotional skills.
We also value outdoor recess and physical activity time, and have an hour of recess everyday. When the weather is nice, we go outside for students to engage in less structured play time. On cold or rainy days, we utilize our own indoor open space, and also use the space of a nearby partner gymnasium.
PROJECT-BASED SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES EXPERIENCES
We facilitate a progressive, hands-on approach to science and social studies. Our curriculum centers on “experiences” that allow for a cross-disciplinary. project-oriented exploration of critical skills and concepts. As an example, we may decide to start a new society on Mars. A group of our students may work with a local physicist to figure out the principles of designing a spaceship which could get us there. Another group may work with a biologist to think about survival: “How will we breathe”? “Can we grow food there”? “Are there sources of water”? And a third group may work closely with our teachers to begin exploring concepts of government as we think about how to create a society.
RIGOROUS MATH, READING, AND WRITING
At The Croft School, we measure our success in early elementary school by the enthusiasm our students have for learning and by the skill-progression that each child demonstrates.
Literacy and Writing. The process of learning to read is highly complex. Research shows that it is important for 5- to 7-year olds to develop and progressively strengthen the foundations of reading, such as phonics, and also have access to books that they can read or approximate reading independently. It is important for them to hear a rich vocabulary, engage in conversations with peers and adults, and to read (and be read to) frequently. At Croft, we approach literacy in a balanced way. Our students learn both to understand the meaning of what they read and also to decode words and sentences. In addition to ensuring our classrooms are awash in language and literacy materials and activities, incorporated organically through the whole day, literacy and writing are taught in a workshop model. We utilize dynamic grouping strategies to enable students to accelerate reading 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 young elementary school students are capable of understanding advanced concepts – if they are asked questions in the right way. Through authentic, hands-on learning activities, our students will develop essential mathematics concepts, skills, and practices. 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.
On a weekly basis (typically, Friday afternoons), our teachers and students, along with parent participants, take a local trip to get to know amazing people, places, and resources within their city and state. Examples of trip destinations include museums, historical sites, local nonprofits, farms, local businesses, the seashore, the theatre, art or music studios, universities, cafés, and outdoor spaces, among others. We aspire to build our students’ recognition of the many relationships and connections that exist throughout their communities.
HIGH-QUALITY ENRICHMENT AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY
During our regular program, students take their enrichment courses in groups of 10-12 students. Every week, students take two art classes, two music classes, two science & engineering classes, and two physical education classes. In addition, students may opt into a wide array of small group extracurricular offerings facilitated during the first part of our daily extended day program (examples include Spanish, Ukulele, Dance, Cooking, Nature Art, Tinkering, Printmaking, and many more).
Community Meetings. We begin and close every school day with a community meeting. These are times for rhyming and singing, word and math games, and classmate sharing. They are times for building a positive and respectful classroom community, as well as celebrating the amazing attributes each child contributes to the classroom. They are times to establish rituals and routines that are fun and help foster an organized learning environment. Most importantly, they are time to develop relationships, which are the foundation of a strong classroom community.
Social-Emotional Learning. To support the social and emotional development of every Croft child, our teachers blend a formal evidence-based curriculum with meaningful and strategic “in the moment” class or small group conversations about social dynamics and decision-making. Our curriculum supports our teachers in proactively developing children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, empathy, positive relationships and problem solving.
Healthy Snack and Lunch. We provide a healthy snack each day during the mid-morning. Students may either bring their own lunch from home or purchase lunch. Our healthy lunch choices are provided by local restaurants (a different restaurant each day of the week).
Flexible Arrival Time. Families may drop off students anytime between 7:30am and 8:30am. We offer a variety of engaging arrival activities before our daily community meeting begins at 8:30am.
Extended Day. For an additional fee, families may choose for their child to stay at our school as late as 5:30pm daily. After a snack is provided at 3:00pm, students engage in an extended day enrichment activity from 3:15-4:15pm. Between 4:15pm and 5:30pm, students engage in reading, art, activities and play of their choice until they are picked up to go home.