Kindergarten is a happy, busy place where children build the solid foundation for a lifetime of learning. Watch the video to learn more about this important year in the Aspen Country Day School journey.
In their academic time at school, Kindergarteners are learning to read, exploring concepts in math and science, and developing essential habits that will serve them as good students for years to come. Left, Kindergarteners study the inner workings of the heart, then don their lab coats and safety glasses for a pig heart dissection.
The Kindergarten language arts program combines whole group, small group, and individual instruction to establish a foundation of essential reading and writing skills. Students build upon phonemic awareness and phonics while learning high-frequency words and developing a robust vocabulary. Teachers use the Orton Gillingham approach to explicitly teach phonics. Small reading groups allow children to practice in a supportive cohort of classmates who are at a similar skill level. Kindergarteners learn the basics of the writing process as well as handwriting, spelling, and grammar through the Lucy Calkins Units of Study writing workshop curriculum. They learn to print using the Handwriting Without Tears program.
Kindergartners gradually and methodically build their mathematical foundation, deepening their understanding of what natural numbers mean. Using the Bridges in Mathematics curriculum, they begin with one-to-one correspondence and move on to basic addition and subtraction within five. Students are introduced to the concept of place value through the transformation of ten, as they seek to fully understand why a 9 becomes a 10, and what the two digits represent. Kindergartners also practice recognizing and creating patterns, and they develop abstract thinking with “number partners” exercises.
Aspen Country Day School believes that a rich science curriculum is a essential not only as a foundation for future science study, but as a way to build critical thinking skills and ignite the imagination. Kindergarten science topics include the five senses, trees, habitats, seasonal changes, space, the rainforest, basic anatomy, and dinosaurs. The selection of “high-interest” topics for young children builds on their natural curiosity and fosters students’ ability to think scientifically. Some project highlights include dissecting a pig’s heart and searching for dinosaur fossils on the spring Outdoor Ed adventure.
In Kindergarten, students explore the groups in which they naturally belong (self, family, and community) and begin to see that they are part of a greater whole. By visiting vital components of a community, (the fire station, police station, hospital, library, court house, bank, etc.) children begin to see the community as an extension of themselves.
Kindergartners learn French for half the year and Spanish for the other half. In Fourth Grade, they choose a language to continue to study throughout their Country Day journey. Through consistent exposure, simple conversations in class, and an engaging curriculum that is based on stories and performance, children gain skills in listening and speaking.
The arts bring so many benefits to young children: fine motor and neural development, problem-solving skills, collaboration, and the sense of accomplishment that makes learning joyful. This is an essential part of the Aspen Country Day School three-part program in academics, arts, and outdoor education. And no matter the medium — drawing, painting, performing, doing digital projects — the arts are a favorite part of each day in Kindergarten.
Kindergartners are introduced to shape, color, and texture as tools for visual expression.
From the report card course description, fall semester:
We began looking at prehistoric, African, Aboriginal, and Native American art to learn basic skills: pencil holding, following directions, identifying symbols and patterns, and using the five elements of drawing. We practiced paper orientation and use of space. More recently we began studying individual abstract artists and their work to learn about lines, shapes, primary colors, color value, vertical/horizontal/diagonal, abstract vs. realistic, and expression of emotion in art. These are the artists we have studied and replicated: Piet Mondrian, Kandinsky, Paul Klee. We combined some of our art time with science to create beautiful weavings.
Students learn about rhythm and instruments through a fun variety of activities that support musical growth and exploration. They experiment with xylophones, castanets, maracas, mini pianos, triangles, drums, tambourines, and bells as they learn about sounds, patterns, and performance. Music and dance activities help them understand tempo, genre, and other musical constructs. They’re also introduced to classical music, cultural music, and basic notation.
Kindergartners are introduced to William Shakespeare and the Globe theatre, and they perform their own abridged version of Macbeth in the school’s annual Shakespeare Festival. They also sing and dance on stage at the Wheeler Opera House in the All-School Play. Drama classes feature activities and games to increase their awareness of movement as a means of expression. They develop a rudimentary understanding of stage voice and have many opportunities for public speaking throughout the year.
The first introduction to Aspen Country Day School’s landmark outdoor education program comes in Kindergarten, when the class spends an entire day exploring in the Rocky Mountains. Left, the Kindergarteners gather on the shore of Weller Lake after a hike. With a spring expedition, afternoon outings closer to campus, PE classes outside and in the gym, children reap the benefits of a life spent in nature and fresh air.
Kindergarten students engage in activities and games to promote a healthy lifestyle and a sense of fair play. They develop gross motor skills and confidence as they build spatial and body awareness. They learn proper techniques for throwing, catching, kicking, and hitting balls, and they improve their balance and agility on fun obstacle courses. All the physical education activities emphasize teamwork and sportsmanship. Highlights of the program include canoeing on the ponds and skiing with classmates several afternoons on the local ski areas.
Kindergarten children experience their first outdoor education trip in late September, a day that combines all the elements of Aspen Country Day School’s Outdoor Education program: exploring, learning about nature, cooperating to pitch tents, and singing around the campfire. They are formally presented with the journals they will write in during each of their two trips per year through Eighth Grade. In May, they travel to Colorado National Monument for a hike and overnight campout. On each trip they learn more about our core values of character, respect, responsibility, community, and perseverance.
So much of the Kindergarten experience is about learning new ways of “doing school,” from signing yourself in each morning, to putting everything away where it belongs in your cubby, to doing your assigned daily job during morning meeting (left, reading the daily message). A sense of structure and organization helps Kindergarteners feel secure in their classroom and in the school community.
Social-emotional learning is woven into the Kindergarten program daily. Lower School Counselor Mary Stokes, a former Kindergarten teacher herself, comes to each class once per week with fun, mindful activities. These are often craft or design projects related to the school-wide monthly themes such as “patience” or “inclusiveness.” This class meeting time is also an opportunity for children to work out any interpersonal misunderstandings with the help of the trained counselor. The focus is on creating a supportive classroom where everyone feels loved and respected.
Projects & traditions
Kindergarteners are enthusiastic about their many new adventures. From the weekly Lower School Assembly to the annual celebration of the 100th Day of School, from field trips to the end-of-year Regatta and picnic, the Kindergartners are on the go with activities throughout the year. Their writing is included in the Aardvark Review, the ACDS literary magazine, and they are paired up with the Fifth Graders in the school buddy program. Parents join in for many project presentations, special celebrations, and Kindergarten events.