Preschool children learn best through hands-on exploration and play, which is at the core of our curriculum. Play develops qualities such as empathy, flexibility, communication and capacity to collaborate which children need to lead happy, fulfilled lives.
Play is a primary learning path at Apple Orchard School, and our unique farm environment provides unlimited opportunities for skills learned through play to be applied to classroom foundational learning. At this age, we believe that sitting and having a child count blocks doesn’t compare to jumping from stump to stump while counting or noticing how many ducks are on a pond one day compared to the next. We want to capitalize on what engages children at this age so that they are excited and interested in learning.
We use the farm around us because there is a direct and positive correlation between contact with nature, imaginative play, and learning. In both our indoor and outdoor classrooms, we engage in storytelling, drama and frequent art projects, and participate in the exploration of building, estimating, measuring, planning, and problem solving. With nature at the core of our program, we support our mission by using a blended approach from the evolving, well researched, early education best practices.
Apple Orchard is committed to taking active steps toward creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community through work with consultants specializing in Anti-Bias Anti-Racist work in school communities and specifically within early education. Some of the ways we are working to create a sense of belonging in our community while actively addressing racism and prejudice include:
Professional development focused on addressing racial injustice in the Early Education classroom.
Speakers and consultants who we recently worked with are Britt Hawthorne (Anti-Bias Anti-Racist educator), Philip McAdoo (Diversity and Inclusion consultant), Jennifer Bryan of Team Finch Consultants on gender identity, and John D’Auria of Teachers21 on managing challenging conversations.
All school reading: Summer reading for the AO faculty has included The Other Wes Moore, Don’t Look Away, Embracing Anti-Bias Classrooms, Raising Ryland, Thirty Million Words, So You Want to Talk About Race, Last Child in the Woods, Balanced and Barefoot, Blessing of a Skinned Knee, and The Gift of Failure. During the academic year, teachers incorporate ideas and discussion topics from these books.
Regular consultation of websites and resources such as embracerace.org, Teaching Tolerance | Diversity, Equity and Justice, britthawthorne.com, National Association of Independent Schools.
Brookline Early Education Program Partnership We provide full scholarships for our afternoon Sandwich Club Program for up to 4 Brookline Preschoolers who are identified as benefiting from our outdoor curriculum.
Parent and Faculty Affinity Groups create space for faculty to gather and support one another in the work of addressing racism, prejudice, and stereotypes, both personally as well as in the work of creating an Anti-Racist curriculum. We plan to assemble White and BIPOC affinity spaces for parents in order to encourage exploration of their experience raising children both at AO and within their own communities.
Enhancement of classroom materials We include multicultural dolls, toys, and books. Every classroom has a designated Family Board with a display of photographs of student and teacher families which is affirmed, and referenced throughout the year.
One of our Affinity Meetings this spring covered the issues faced by individuals who are differently abled. As an exercise, we put our heads together and brainstormed the many classroom interventions and accommodations we have in place to help all our students feel successful. This list is a compilation of those. As a team, we are always looking for additional ways to support our learners.