Kindergarten (Salmon) Program
Sparking Imagination, Celebrating Creativity
Salmonberry’s Kindergarten program clearly recognizes children’s individual and unique trajectories through their natural unfolding, as well as the developmental distinctions present within this multi-age classroom. We believe Kindergarten can be a critical time of grounding and growth for children. Our goal is to nurture the process of learning, grow curiosity, and encourage autonomy. We offer exposure to academic concepts and content areas but do not expect mastery. If students are ready during their time as Salmon, they are encouraged to dive deeper into the symbolic realm of numbers and beginning reading. The goal is always to meet the students where they are and “feed them when they’re hungry”.
The Salmonberry Kindergarten, affectionately known as the ‘Salmon’ program, is a child-centered and holistic program for children 4-6 years old. The Salmon program is built upon a strong foundation and understanding of child development and a belief in the need for children at these ages to be immersed in a world of imaginative and creative play.
An ethic of care pervades the classroom. Teachers’ gentle guidance and modeling encourages children’s capacity to care for others, as well as for their immediate environment. Students spend a large amount of time engaged in free outside play as well as inside explorations in a carefully crafted and beautiful environment. The learning environment in the Salmon classroom has a strong rhythmic quality. This consistent daily and weekly rhythm helps children to feel secure at school and provides the safety and predictability that they need at these ages. There is a variety of indoor and outdoor, whole group and individual, teacher-led and student-led activities, which comprise this in-and-out quality.
Children gather together each day for a circle time that helps to build a sense of community, belonging and care for self and others. Salmon teachers are strong classroom leaders and employ their authority with great compassion, care and love. Teachers lead the group with an emphasis on story – oral storytelling, encouraging children’s own stories, and picture book read alouds. They engage directly and authentically with children. Children are treated with enormous respect. Both the needs of the individual and those of the group are held in highest esteem. The Salmon classroom is a place of wonder, reverence, and safety. It is also a lively, fun and dynamic learning environment, which challenges and engages all learners.
A foundation for social and emotional learning is built inside the Salmon classroom with a focus on social skills and problem solving through compromise, collaboration, and listening as well as self-soothing techniques nurtured during quiet, whole group breathing and mindfulness moments.
Emergent curriculum is a strong element in the Salmon program. Children’s individual and collective interests, curiosities and passions are recognized and respected. Materials are present for children who are interested and ready to explore beginning literacy and mathematical thinking, and scientific learning may take place through rotating activity stations in the classroom or during whole group hands-on activities. This approach ensures that the curriculum is lively, meaningful and relevant to the children, and that it meets them where they are.
Literacy and Language
The Salmon classroom environment immerses the children in the rich world of language. Students keep journals to express their ideas. These notebooks include original artwork, symbols, dictated sentences as well as student writing. Students are often encouraged to act out their personal narratives in the form of dramatic plays and share their own stories at the communal table during snack and lunch time. The print-rich and language-rich environment provides an excellent foundation for the acquisition of literacy skills. Phonics and phonemic awareness are also taught in a developmentally appropriate way and are blended with a more whole language approach to teaching literacy.
A beautiful aspect of the play based Salmon program is the ability to meet the children where their interests are. Teacher designed provocations give children to time to explore and blossom into students who genuinely love making meaning from letters, words, and stories. Teachers offer fun ways to explore letter and word sounds using sensory cards and letter beads to write names, play rhyming games, and practice inventive spelling to encourage free expression through writing. Regularly, Salmon are also connected with students from our older classrooms to share in cozy partner reading time.
Mathematical thinking is one important way that children develop a sense of themselves and the world in which they live. In the Salmon classroom students may play with wooden blocks as a way to explore proportion and measurement, symmetry, patterns and spatial relationships. Students explore patterns and numeration using math games made available during partner choice and free choice time, which are built into the daily schedule. Mathematical concepts are integrated throughout the day with activities such as sorting, counting, music and art. Numeration and number sense are also taught directly and are grounded by the use of manipulatives.
The Arts, Movement, and Mindfulness
Arts and craftwork are another core element in the Salmonberry Kindergarten. Arts are used to help facilitate the development of children’s expressive capacity. Students explore movement and dance, dramatic arts, and a wide range of visual media. At times an art activity may be student led or student inspired. Arts curriculum emphasizes natural materials, and might include sculpting with clay, creating collage or mobiles with found beach objects, painting with watercolors or cooking.
Salmon students enjoy daily opportunities to move their bodies and play. Through unstructured yard play and twice weekly dance instruction with dance specialist Hayley, children challenge their bodies and practice their gross-motor skills acquisition. Salmon students refine their physical skills and capacities as they gain intentionality and greater control over movement. Within the landscape of collaborative, multi-age, and cross-gender play, children have many opportunities to witness and develop their own body awareness in a safe and engaging setting.
Also important to children’s development is cultivating stillness and grounding in the body. Regular mindfulness practices link mind and body, head and heart to put students in touch with the connection between their physical bodies and more interior selves. This includes meditation, breathing, guided visualization and relaxation exercises. We also regularly make an effort to walk to the beach and hike through the forest as part of an approach that integrates mind, body, place and spirit.
Science and Nature
The Salmon classroom encourages the development of children’s natural capacity for inquiry and exploration. As students ask questions of the world around them, teachers encourage them to explore these questions and test out their theories, often documenting the results of these investigations. This inquiry-based approach provides a foundation for the child’s connection to the scientific process. At this developmental level, it is important to balance this analytic approach to science with direct experience with nature, which helps to develop the child’s natural sense of wonder. Connecting children with nature is an important part of the Kindergarten program. Children go on nature walks noticing the seasonal changes around them and oftentimes return to the classroom with treasures found in nature.