Our Stories

Pre-K Project Fosters Academic Learning, Social-Emotional Skill-Building, and Habits of Mind

February 9, 2022 by Ronit Greenstein (Faculty and Staff)

Our Pre-Kindergarten class engaged in an investigation of identity and the interplay between identity and feelings. As the project progressed, the children reached higher levels of thinking, honed academic skills, flexed social-emotional skills, and gained a stronger sense of self and community.  

The open-ended exploration began with guiding questions prompting the children to identify, name and differentiate distinct feelings. The children contemplated what evokes certain emotions and how to express themselves when they experience “big or small feelings.” Next, the class dove into research. They adopted the Design Thinking process as they tackled the question: “Which strategies can I/we use to regulate feelings?” Over the course of the multi-modal study, teachers guided the children toward more abstract thinking as expressed in art and representation. Throughout, Pre-K students had opportunities to study and build habits of mind such as persisting, self-regulation, listening with understanding and empathy, thinking flexibly, problem solving, gathering data through all the senses, creating and imagining, thinking independently, and working together.  

Emphasizing the importance of research, they began by reading the book series A Little Spot of Emotion by Diane Alber. The series offered a developmentally-appropriate examination of anger, confidence, happiness, peace, sadness, anxiety and love. They also read The Color Monster by Anna Llenas, a playful and imaginative story about emotions that inspired the children’s representation of emotion in their art. The “Monster Project” integrated Hebrew learning, math, and arts exploration: children learned the names of different body parts in Hebrew; they chose the number of hands, eyes, ears etc their character would have as they created an imaginary monster; they used a chart to detail their plans; they drew a sketch; and then physically created the monster. 

The Pre-K children also worked on a group project. Their goal was to incorporate what they learned about feelings and self-regulation to create a space where any child in Gan Aravot can go when they are experiencing a big feeling. Following the Design Thinking process, they began with empathy, defined their user and their challenges, and ideated solutions before building a prototype – a multisensory space where the children can calm down and regulate their emotions. Students had opportunities for individual exploration, ideation, collaboration, and community building as they worked to combine the individual elements into one larger whole. The safe space had a variety of calming, sensory elements and the children curated the space to fit all of the pieces together. 

Educators incorporated lessons in geometry, literacy, writing, scientific exploration, and art into the hands-on, multi-disciplinary project. The children learned about big math concepts like correspondence and symmetry, explored colors, patterns, and shapes, used a variety of manipulatives and developed spatial awareness and fine motor skills as they built.

The Pre-K Celebration of Learning also showcased the astounding amount of Hebrew learning by our youngest students. Hebrew instruction is woven into the daily learning and the children absorb the language in authentic ways – through daily conversations with teachers, by playing games, singing songs, hearing read-aloud stories, engaging in special activities, and by experiencing theater productions in Hebrew. Parents had an opportunity to see the children’s gains in language using vocabulary from units on colors, animals, parts of the body, and much more! No celebration would be complete without a look at the children’s learning in Judaic Studies. The children were proud to share their learning about the different chagim (holidays) and they were excited to share their recent Tu B’Shvat planting project, which connected to the children’s learning in Science, Judaic Studies and art. Kol hakavod to the Pre-K!