Our preschool serves children beginning at age 2 1/2 through to their pre-kindergarten year. Email or call (804.272.1341) our admissions office to inquire about a tour of the preschool, or register for one of our upcoming programs, here.
We believe children learn best when they are motivated to carry out inquiry and research. Within their play, the children's own passions form the basis for in-depth investigations that lead them to develop understanding, to represent their ideas, and to develop a repertoire of social and emotional skills. Teachers and the specially prepared environment support the children in their investigations, making available a wide variety of media and materials in which the children can represent their ideas, questions, and theories, revealing their many forms of intelligence and developing facility in a variety of "languages" or avenues of expression. As children actively construct knowledge with teachers and other students, they acquire the habit of social responsibility, both as individuals who respect others, and as members of a learning community who can negotiate, collaborate, and seek solutions collectively.
Our daily schedule conforms as much as possible to the child’s sense of time. This means slowing down, removing artificial breaks and transitions, allowing the children to sustain deep engagement in their work and play, and imparting a sense of routine and predictability that helps us to function well as a school community.
Our Preschool program shares the same philosophical underpinnings as our program in the Lower and Middle Schools and reflects our commitment to pursuing best practices in early childhood education. In addition, the Preschool program is strongly influenced by and shares many features with the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Relationships with Others in the Learning Community
Good relationships are not only the foundation of children’s success in life but critical to their work with their classmates. As children go about their work and play, teachers provide the support children need for initiating interactions with one another, for engaging and sustaining play, and for negotiating connections when they become challenging.
Circles and Small Group Collaboration
Our environment is deliberately community-oriented. Daily classroom circles and small groups help cement children’s sense of belonging to a learning community. Children often work on projects in small groups formed around shared interests. The two oldest preschool classes begin the day with a community circle where they share their individual or small group work. In all classes, teachers may invite children into impromptu conversation circles to support communication and projects, and every classroom ends the morning with a closing circle. When children work in groups, they consolidate their learning by sharing knowledge and expressing their thinking to one
another. They gain experience listening to and understanding others’ perspectives and synthesizing them with their own.
Relationships Across Ages: Our Umbrella Project
Every year, the Sabot at Stony Point community undertakes a school-wide exploration, with opportunities for cross-grade collaboration. The Studio Teacher provides support in conceptualizing students’ and faculty’s endeavors, and in bringing their ideas to fruition. In September of 2016, Marty Gravett (Director of Early Childhood and Outreach) and two teachers - Mauren Campbell and Anna Golden, published this article about our Umbrella Project. (From Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange, v. 23, n. 3, September 2016. Published by the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA).
Stop Signs: Evidence of Subtle Structures
Teachers establish procedures and behaviors that allow the day to flow smoothly. Many of these structures are transparent, since they depend not on rules or commands but on a culture of respect for the classroom environment and community. Stop signs – placed on doors or areas that are temporarily off limits, or on objects that may be looked at but not handled – are one visible marker of these systems. The signs serve as reminders that help the children to internalize expectations and assume responsibility for their own behavior.
Children are encouraged to take responsibility (in developmentally appropriate ways) for the school environment and community. Even the youngest children help by hanging up coats, putting snacks in cubbies, refilling their water bottle, and setting up for and cleaning up after snack. Responsibilities contribute to children’s sense of belonging and investment in the school community, and build confidence and independence.
Partnership with Parents
We regard parents as partners who help us get to know their children and support their learning. As the year progresses, parents and teachers learn about the child from each other. On several evenings each year, teachers invite parents for informal conversations about the work of the classroom. Parents are also encouraged to participate, as they are able, in the daily routines of the preschool as morning greeters and “Star Parents.”
Research and Reflection on the World
Projects or investigations are the focus of the children's work. Because learning is active - children don't simply absorb knowledge, but construct
it by testing assumptions and evaluating new information against existing knowledge - children gain much more when they are motivated. Projects can emerge not only from four- and five-year olds' interest in sketching birds, but also from a two-year old's fascination with the room's doorknobs, or a three-year old's interest in how a toilet works. Teachers play a guiding role, but projects develop out of the children's interests, ensuring that the process of learning is both purposeful and meaningful.
Teachers often create provocations – intriguing objects, novel materials, or unexpected events that pique the children’s curiosity and spark questions and analytical thinking. For example, a teacher might set up stools and binoculars in front of a window overlooking a construction site. Or, a provocation might occur naturally, as when a stack of hay bales appears next to the playground, or a CD handled by the teacher reflects rays of colored light around the room. Whether deliberate or accidental, provocations crystallize inquiries and serve as points of entry to research.
The term scaffolding describes support from a teacher or peer that helps a child succeed at a task he or she wouldn’t be able to accomplish alone. Such support can be in the form of hands-on help, or it can mean simply sitting next to a child as he or she works. Scaffolding is carefully calibrated, providing just the amount of assistance needed. It is also temporary, so that as a child gains more understanding and skill, support is pulled back until the child can succeed independently.
Scaffolding most often comes from teachers, but with teacher guidance, older or skilled peers can provide sensitive scaffolding as well. This is one element of what it means to be part of a learning community.
Teachers display the children’s work on the walls and elsewhere, as they do in other schools, but at Sabot, the purpose of such displays is not to showcase achievements or finished products. Instead, displays often record work in progress or track the evolution of an investigation. Children and teachers revisit the documentation for direction, inspiration, or to refer to each other’s work. Documentation takes many forms: photographs of student work, video or sound recordings, transcribed conversations, teachers’ notes.
Representation of Ideas and Knowledge
Materials of All Kinds
Our classrooms are filled with open-ended building materials, art supplies, natural objects, and tools that feed children’s curiosity and encourage exploration and experimentation. Children need opportunities to “mess about” with materials, figuring out how to convey their ideas and gaining knowledge about what materials can and can’t do. As they represent their knowledge and learning, they begin to reflect, which leads
them to further questions and more investigation.
The Hundred Languages of Children
As children become adept at using a particular medium or mode of representation for learning, asking questions, solving problems, understanding, and communicating, we say they have acquired a new language. We borrow the concept of the “hundred languages” from Loris Malaguzzi of the Reggio Emilia schools to emphasize children’s use of many languages – not only more standard modes of expression, such as drama, dance, drawing or sculpture, but also less conventional modes or media as well. For example, some children develop such facility with colored tape, or shadow/light play, that those become languages for them. For others, tinkering with everyday mechanical objects or imagining “machines” can be a language of inquiry and expression.
When children have access to different media and modes of expression, they can develop the strengths that come most naturally. We also routinely challenge children to express the same idea in more than one medium. Doing so helps them to view the world from different angles, and to synthesize those perspectives – a process essential for learning.
Children can visit our studio when they need more specialized materials and support from the Studio Teacher to develop and realize their ideas. But the studio is more than a physical space: it is a mindset that affirms the value of children’s ideas and empowers them to realize their projects.
Readiness for Literacy, Numeracy, and Analytical Thinking
You’ll see the children’s symbols everywhere: they’re used on coat hooks, the parents’ mailboxes, any work the children complete, and in countless other ways. Upon entering our program, each child chooses a unique symbol to represent him- or herself. They recognize their own symbols almost immediately, and soon learn the symbols of their friends. The child’s symbol is coupled with his or her name and, eventually, the name supersedes the symbol as the child learns to recognize it. For many children, wanting to spell their own and their friends’ names is an early entrée to writing, which in
turn supports reading.
In fact, children are never far away from literacy work in our classrooms. Children obtain a signed note from their teacher when they wish to travel from one classroom to another (whether in search of information, to the studio for materials, or to visit a friend). Initially, teachers suggest words and do the note-writing, but over time, the children gradually take over the process, first dictating words and later writing the
notes themselves. Teachers often sound out words and search aloud for the correct letters, inviting children to contribute to the process. The sending teacher, parent hallway volunteer and the receiving teacher all read each note aloud, so that all
children in the class have the opportunity, again and again, to see the function and value of the written word.
Asking Questions and Solving Problems
Young children often use mathematics in their play. They may count their friends or give each one a block, they consider geometric shape and fit as they build with blocks, they use materials to create patterns, or they estimate the number of people they believe it will take to lift a room-long tube they have constructed from numerous paper rolls, and record the results with their personal symbols on a graph.
Teachers help to recognize and document the children’s thinking. They also use questions to draw children’s attention to places where their thinking is inconsistent or where facts conflict with their theories, encouraging children to extend
and deepen their exploration: “You say that Laura is older than Marty because she is taller. Let’s check in with Laura and Marty about that.” A moment later… “Ah, you found
Marty is older. How does that work?"