Camellia Waldorf School’s Desert Rose Preschool meets three or five mornings each week, led by a teacher and an assistant. Children entering our preschool program should reach age three by December 31 of the year of admission. For many of these children, this class is their first experience away from their parents in a social setting with other children, and we see it as an important bridge between home and school.
Our morning begins with creative play in the classroom. Creative play stimulates and nourishes the child’s imagination that is developing and unfolding at this age. It also offers many opportunities to enter into and negotiate the social world. Children at three and four often need assistance in negotiating social struggles. Therefore, one teacher places herself near the children’s play to be available to help negotiate sharing or other struggles when necessary, and to model positive interactions.
In the classroom we provide simple, natural toys such as silks, baskets of pinecones, shells and slices of wood, dress-up materials, and stumps and play stands that become the raw materials for all kinds of imaginative adventures that the children will create. The classroom also offers toys for enacting domestic life, such as dolls, a dollhouse, a play kitchen and a small table and chairs. Baskets of puppets and animals allow the children to create their own stories or to retell stories they have heard at school. As the year progresses, the older children may reenact a story themselves, and many of the children will enjoy dressing up. During the nursery creative play hour, painting, drawing and baking are offered on specific days. Domestic work also surrounds the children: cooking and baking, cleaning, and repairing toys. The children enjoy imitating and participating in these familiar activities.
After creative play, teachers and children clean up the classroom and return the toys to their homes. A well-ordered and beautiful environment supports the sense of life and well-being.
Circle time follows clean-up time. The circle is structured as an imaginative seasonal adventure and includes songs, nursery rhymes and verse, movement and games. The circle is designed very intentionally to try to meet the physical and social needs of the group of children in a way that is imaginative and playful. A foundation for language arts and math is laid in a very introductory and imaginative way through nursery rhymes and games. Circles are repeated daily for three or four weeks, nourishing the children’s love and need for rhythm, and giving them ample time to learn the elements either explicitly or internally. Each circle time ends with a brief rest, giving the children an opportunity to practice coming to stillness.
After circle time, the class shares a nutritious snack, based on whole-grains. Snacks also include protein and seasonal fruits and vegetables. In addition to the physical nourishment provided by the food, snack time gives an opportunity to offer gratitude for our food, friends and family, and social opportunities to practice conversation and good manners at the table.
After snack time teachers work with the children to get dressed to go outside, giving a time to practice self-care skills. Our play yard offers a natural setting with digging, dirt and mud play on “Mr. Mountain,” swings, including traditional, rope and spinning swings, a slide, sandboxes, playhouse and gardens. In addition rabbits and chickens live in the early childhood yard. Outdoor play offers more opportunities for imaginative, physical, sensory and social development. Children may work with a teacher who is gardening, watering, sweeping or tending animals. The class goes outdoors rain or shine, and the children experience the changing seasons in the yard and nurture their connection to the natural world.
After our outdoor play hour, the class return to the classroom and prepares for the puppet story. For this age group, the stories are told primarily as puppet shows, due to the child’s still developing pictorial imagination. Stories are related to the seasons and include expanded nursery rhymes, nature stories, sequential stories and simple fairy tales. The same story is repeated for three weeks. Stories nourish the child’s imagination and sense of well-being, and add to the child’s language arts foundation for later literacy.
Parent Education and Support
An important component of the preschool is parent education and support.The teacher has conferences with all parents in the fall, and again as necessary and desired, to discuss the child’s development at home and at school and to work as a team to support the child. The teacher is also available for conversations about a particular parenting issue or challenge a parent is facing.
The teacher writes a parent letter every two to three weeks to update the parents on the activities of the class and related issues and also provides periodic articles to parents on issues of child development and parenting. A parent library of books on relevant topics is available in the classroom for parents to use. Five parent evenings are held each year on topics such as play, media, discipline, sensory development, festivals, and self-care, and include time for discussion of the children’s development as a group and often a simple craft for parents.