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Preschool Experience

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Where you are educated first, matters most. The Carey School Preschool takes these words to heart since we know that a focus on building a strong academic foundation while instilling a love of learning through play is essential for children to thrive. We balance curriculum and instruction with play, exploration and opportunities for experiential learning. 

Benefits of Play

Research continues to support the notion that very young children learn best through authentic, open ended play. A play-based approach honors a child’s developmental stage and provides them with an environment to spark connections - both cognitive and social - and develop independence.  These traits are key to critical thinking and executive functioning in the later grades. We know that multi-sensory play and socio-dramatic play activate multiple centers of the brain, encouraging the formation of a greater number of neural pathways early on in a child’s life.

Beyond the cognitive benefits, play also creates a socially and emotionally supportive environment for students. Early childhood learning materials are designed to self scaffold within a child’s ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development), providing them with natural challenges and support to their learning without teacher interruption. Cooperative play creates openings for social conflict resolution, emotional vocabulary development and self-advocacy. Students involved in child-directed learning have a greater sense of agency in their learning which contributes not only to their own self-esteem but also to their understanding and development of empathy as they see their own experiences mirroring others.

Outdoor Play

In addition to classroom based instruction in STEAM related areas, the students will also spend a lot of time outside in free play. Students will spend at least 60 minutes daily at outside recess. Child-directed gross motor activity supports the development of trunk and large motor muscles and supports risk taking. Students are encouraged to climb and jump and swing as they become confident on our outdoor play equipment. 

Big Blue Blocks and other open ended building materials provide opportunities for heavy lifting and coordination while students work to create large outdoor structures. These materials also create venues for cooperation and discussion as groups work together to create their buildings and games. 


Play is...

  • Open-ended and uninterrupted
  • Multi-sensory
  • Spontaneous
  • Inquiry driven
  • Explorative
  • Social 
  • Student-centered
  • Motivating
  • Scaffolded 
  • Emergent

Specialist Content

The Preschool Specialist Curricula is linked closely with each classroom’s thematic content. Our dedicated specialist teacher designs and leads lessons throughout the week that introduce students to the scientific method, design thinking and early visual art techniques. Each lesson centers on developing specific skills, while also continuously bolstering emergent literacy and numeracy skills. 

Outdoor education introduces Carey’s youngest students to environmental stewardship. Children will cultivate and maintain our small school garden and take weekly trips to a nearby park for outdoor learning opportunities. Students will explore the natural playground, investigating trees of many varieties, a running creek and rolling hills. 

Music and movement play a pivotal role in early childhood development, supporting each child’s overall physical development and exposing them to early musicality. This early exposure not only informs their sense of rhythm, tone and tempo, but also builds upon emergent literacy and numeracy skills through songs, chants and moving. 

Emergent Curriculum 

"What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught, rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing, as a consequence of their activities and our resources."
—Loris Malaguzzi, The Hundred Languages of Children
An emergent curriculum follows student interests and provides learning content based on their budding inquiries as a motivator for engagement. Skill building and teacher instruction are aligned across grade levels, following Carey’s carefully developed learning paths, though the topics of study shift with each classroom’s curiosities and investigations. The teachers act as facilitators, directors and architects ensuring that the types of exploration presented to students encourage the building of early foundational skills in a developmentally appropriate progression. 

Our emergent curriculum approach is:

  • Student derived and teacher facilitated
  • Cooperative 
  • Project based 
  • Integrative 
  • Dynamic