|Pre-K / Kindergarten Program
Shepherd Valley offers a Pre-K / Kindergarten for mixed aged, 3 - 6 year olds, in a play-based program.
Sunflower Garden: a 5-day morning program for 3-6 year olds.
Blubell Garden: a 3-day morning program (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) for yonger children in the 3-6 year age range.
Our teachers nurture the children's power of imagination particular to the age.
We work with the young child primarily by creating a warm, beautiful and loving home-like environment, which is protective and secure and where things happen in a predictable, regular manner.
The teacher engages in domestic, practical and artistic activities that the children can readily imitate (for example, baking, painting, gardening and handicrafts), adapting the work to the changing seasons and festivals of the year.
The teacher nurtures the children's power of imagination particular to the age. She does so by telling carefully selected stories and by encouraging free play. This free or fantasy play, in which children act out scenarios of their own creation, helps them to experience many aspects of life more deeply. When toys are used, they are made of natural materials. Pine cones, wood, cotton, silk, shells, stones and other objects from nature.
Sequencing, sensory integration, eye-hand coordination tracking, appreciating the beauty of language and other basic skills necessary for the foundation of academic excellence are fostered in the Kindergarten. In this truly natural, loving and creative environment, the children are given a range of activities and the structure that help them prepare for the next phase of school life.
A Waldorf Kindergarten is a magical place. Upon entering a Waldorf Early Childhood classroom for the first time, many parents experience a sudden sigh of relief, a deep sense of relaxation and security, and a feeling that “oh yes, this is childhood as it should be.” Beauty and quality are apparent everywhere. From the handcrafted toys to the nature table and the lovely draped silks, the whole room welcomes the child to a day filled with imagination and inspiration.
The morning begins with the teacher’s warm and loving welcome. The children engage in morning outside play before departing for a walk around the land to awaken their bodies and senses for the day.
Upon returning to the classroom, the teacher leads the children into Circle Activities, which include development of large and small motor skills through integrated movement with poems, plays, songs and finger plays drawn from the festivals and rhythmic elements of the year. From the abundant autumn harvest to winter’s darkness and anticipation of the light through spring’s bright new birth of green and summer’s ripening fruits, the children reflect and celebrate the seasonal cycle around them. Once a week the children move to poems and songs in Eurythmy class. Eurythmy is an art of movement to speech and tones developed by Rudolf Steiner and is found in Waldorf Schools over the globe. Eurythmy is especially suited to young children and their natural musical nature.
Snack time is of great importance in the Early Childhood Classes as the children have participated in the preparation of the food by helping to chop the vegetables for Vegetable Soup Day, by rolling the oats for Oat Day, grinding the wheat for the bread, and even churning the butter or grating or grinding cinnamon or sesame. The Sunflower Garden and Bluebell Garden all offer an organic whole grain snack. All of the Early Childhood Classes offer a time for “work and play”. This creative play is taken very seriously in a Waldorf Preschool/ Kindergarten class. It is a time when the child’s imagination can flourish and when social activity, initiated by the children, can take place. The materials for the creative play are varied and beautiful: silks, large cloths, stones, pinecones, shells, logs, capes, and crowns. These materials are unformed and non-specific and offer the children an unlimited, unrestricted canvas for play. One day the children may set sail on a ship, the next day the same toys may become a castle or a restaurant. In their simplicity, the materials serve the free flow of a child’s mind so that the child’s imaginative qualities flourish and create a strong foundation for creative thinking in later life.
Many of the Early Childhood activities are extensions of home life. Depending on which day of the week, the children may grind grain for the bread they bake for snack, do simple finger knitting, or engage in gardening, mending, or housekeeping. They learn to love and care for their things in their “classroom” home. Painting with watercolors, sewing, woodworking, forming beeswax into delightful shapes, and preparation for the festivals are just a few items that guide the flow of the day. We strive to provide an environment that stimulates and is worthy of a child’s imitation in which each child can be physically active in a meaningful way. Following the morning work and play, the room is always tidied to be ready for another day. Each day, the children come together for a Fairy Tale, nature or multicultural story or puppet show. The telling and retelling of the Fairy Tales and other stories opens a world into which each child may enter and be filled with rich imagination.
Vigorous and energetic outside play in the large and rolling play yard is always part of the Early Childhood morning. The teachers understand the importance for the young child to have the opportunity for joyful physical movement and purposeful play as well as the opportunity for their senses to unfold. The morning closes with a verse and a warm, loving farewell from the teacher to each child. Through love and warmth, beauty and play, the teacher and children together create a family – a small world of wonder within the larger universe.