This is the second article in a four-part series on Progressive education at St. Francis School.
By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

The Progressive education model allows our preschoolers to grow and develop at their own pace, while also learning to be a part of a classroom community. Within our classrooms, children learn to collaborate and to listen to the thoughts and ideas of their classmates. Our curriculum builds on activities that foster critical thinking, early literacy skills, and social and emotional growth. For our students, self-expression is cultivated through the arts and literacy. An integral part of each child’s day is devoted to play either in a group setting or independently. These play experiences are “hands-on learning” opportunities and are designed to tap into each child’s sense of curiosity to promote discovery, creativity, and problem solving.

An example of how this looks for an observant four-year-old motivated to send emails while in class but without the technology to actually access email (yet), is a keyboard and computer monitor made from wooden blocks and paper. The paper keyboard was full of perfectly-lined squares and letters danced across the paper monitor taped to a larger wooden block. This “play” was supported by the child’s teacher and demonstrated the child’s knowledge of technology, and our support for imaginative, creative play. Allowing space and support for children to test their ideas, think analytically, and to be comfortable with appropriate risk-taking are hallmarks of Progressive education. Another important component to our practice is our view of nature, the environment, and outdoor play as an extension of what’s happening in our classrooms. In Preschool, we respect each child’s unique growth process while also seeking to expand their worldview.