About the Portland Preschool of the Arts
“Imagination is more important than knowledge – for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.” - Albert Einstein
We are a Reggio Emilia inspired, play-based preschool. We aim to encourage the natural curiosity, creativity, communication, and community in our students. We believe in the innate drive of children to understand and experience the world through hands-on expression, trial and error, and openness. We aim to follow the interests of each child wherever they may lead. We have a monthly theme that guides our daily art and craft projects such as Ocean Life, Plants, Music, and Weather. We are highly focused on building the social and emotional skills that will create a foundation of confidence in community, good friends, and life-long learners.
The Portland Preschool of the Arts is a childhood-first, constructivist, exploration and discovery-based preschool. We care about childhood and giving kids the space to explore their own young minds, follow the ideas that strike them, learn from their mistakes, and take pride in their accomplishments. We want kids to be excited about figuring out the way the world works by inspiring curiosity and encouraging rich imagination-based play. We strive to cultivate curiosity, creativity, concentration, openness, and social understanding. We believe that every child is filled with wonder and potential and their innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it.
At the Portland Preschool of the Arts we create an environment where kids are able to:
Explore and expand their natural curiosity –
Every day we offer different supplies, materials, and books for the kids to explore. These tend to be based around our monthly exploration theme (this month is plants!) but can also be something as simple as beads and string or a bucket of clay.
Ask questions and engage in discussion and exploration –
Every day we have “group project” time. In this time we all gather together around a table or in a circle. We might read a story, look at some pictures, or pass around objects such as radishes (a root we eat!) with the tops still on to discuss the full structure of a plant. Students are encouraged to discuss what they see, ask questions, and find answers. We use the Socratic approach to learning, offering a question in return to their questions, stimulating critical thinking and drawing out ideas so that they get to experience the joy of discovery. We present an art project based on what we have discussed for the kids to participate in together.
Interact socially through play –
For the first two hours of every day the kids have 100% open, free play time. Some days this time will be used exploring our imagination station, making a book, or making water color paintings. But often I find that this time is used for elaborate fantastical imagination games where all the kids in the class take on a character and build a block dragon that is after them or uses the big Legos as treasure. They may also play hide-and-seek or freeze tag – all of this is up to them and they make the rules. This is important time for the kids to learn how to interact as a group, figure out rules, work through conflict, communicate, make choices, cooperate with other, and become the author of their own story.
Learn appropriate social behaviors with a strong focus on emotional learning and empathy–
Children will have lots of emotions and reactions to their new environment and particularly to their friends in Preschool! Sometimes they will be full of joy and wonder; sometimes they will feel hurt or angry or discouraged. This is all a normal and necessary part of learning how to interact with others! At the Portland Preschool of the Arts we have a strong focus on how to deal with and manage those social and emotional situations. As natural circumstances unfold I help the kids learn to recognize their emotions, the causes of those emotions, and learn ways to understand and manage those emotions. That might mean taking time to themselves to breath, having a discussion with their friend, or counting slowly to ten. Equally important is helping them recognize emotion in others – how do we know what other’s are feeling? Look at their face; what is their body doing? What do these things mean? I then help them understand their role (if any) in those the creation of those emotions (why do you think they feel this way?) and learn appropriate and caring responses to other people.
Practice listening and Comprehension
At the end of the day we read a story – sometimes short and simple, sometime longer and more complicated depending on the mood. We discuss the words used in the book – “They said the tree was gigantic, what does gigantic mean? What are some other words that mean something similar to gigantic?” We discuss the concepts, “why do you think she’s upset? Why is it so important to her that her friend can’t come with her?” Other questions I might ask are, “has something like this ever happened to you? What do you think about that? What was your favorite part? What does that mean?” All of the kids might have different responses and this can lead to discussions as well! This is how we learn to comprehend not only stories, but each other.
Engage Academically -
The Portland Preschool of the Arts does NOT have a traditional academic focus. Our students learn the letter sounds and the concept of fractions because those concepts arrive as natural topics in our exploration. We use shapes, letter sounds, patterns, and counting naturally in creation, in discussion, and in exploration. We will delve into all kinds of fun topics in our monthly explorations: plants, outer space, ocean life, magic and myth, colors, cultures and countries, time, mammals and me, reptiles, dinosaurs, and more! Within these topics are all kinds of opportunities for more “traditional” academic concepts to arise. The kids may not leave the school with the ability to write out every letter in the alphabet, but they will leave with things much more fundamental to the long term success of their education:
Love of learning
Confidence in their curious and creative selves
A disposition for learning based on questioning and discovering
Our Daily Schedule:
We start the day with 2 hours of free play and art discovery. During this time kids will also eat a snack that has been sent from home.
At 11:00 we do a daily project in “group project” time - this could be drawing, collage, painting, sensory art, music, movement, or science!
Depending on how much time we have left the kids may continue to engage with the project on their own, choose to create something new, or re-engage in imagination play with each other.
If the kids did not have the time or hunger to eat snack in the morning, 12:00 is another time for eating a snack/lunch.
At 12:15 the children work together as a group (teamwork time!) to stack the big-blocks into a final sculpture which will be waiting for the next morning’s kids to enjoy, knock over, and rebuild!
After block building we have group time where we all come together, sing songs, talk about our day, center ourselves with a few moments of quiet breathing, and then read and discuss books until parents begin to arrive!
At 12:55 the kids go home full of fun ideas and creative curiosity!
We hope you will join us!
Some information on the importance of Free Play for children:
"The function of play is to build pro-social brains. Social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways."
"The skills associated with play also lead to better grades... one study measured social skills and academic performance in 3rd grade then again at 8th grade. 'And we can ask, which of the two data sets - social skills or academic performance - is a better predictor of their academic performance at 8th grade, and it turns out that the better predictor is social skills,' which depends on play time not class time."
"When you tour preschools you’re considering, ask about their philosophy about play. Preschoolers need opportunities to play, prepared spaces for them to explore and responsive teachers to support their learning. Such a setting prepares children not only to become students who will work with others cooperatively and approach learning with joy, but also happier people who will not lose their love of play."
" In play, the child creates a world into which she puts her thoughts, her imaginings and her feelings. The world she creates in free form is literally made out of herself, spun out of her own subjectivity. This created world, in turn, gives the child a sense of her self as an active, creative being. The child is the ruler of her tiny kingdom, and in it she feels deliciously free and alive."