Nature Pre-primary School

For Ages 3-5

Oak and Orca Pre-primary school is a school for children aged 3-5 years. While this is a licensed child-care facility, it run as a school since our activities are playful, yet our goals are educational. The pre-primary is not a typical daycare, yet we are not a school in the traditional sense either.

We offer quality programming in a licensed child-care facility. The programming is educational, yet playful and child-led. In this unique program, Oak and Orca philosophies and instructional practices are interpreted for a younger audience.

Program Summary

Children are encouraged to explore and make choices based on their interests and readiness.

Oak and Orca Pre-primary school is a place of exploration and investigation. Educators are trained in the bioregional methods of the school to encourage natural learning in all areas.

They offer experiential learning activities and workshops throughout the day. Alternately, children may choose age-appropriate child-directed learning activities in the Open Classroom. Choices allow children to be provided with experiences that broaden the scope of their natural learning, without being required to always do what the group is doing. This system offers a balance of independent and group activities.

Unique Programming

Our pre-primary program is a unique model of early childhood education. By creating an education environment that meets children's interests, needs and capabilities, we offer a genuine school experience for 3 to 5 year olds. The pre-primary school is an extension of the Oak and Orca Bioregional School model.

Consistency between the pre-primary and the elementary programs is very high and includes the same format, philosophies and techniques. Staffing, resources and space are also extensively shared between the two programs. Modifications for younger children include shorter open classroom/workshop periods, additional time for gross motor play, daily opportunities for circle time, and simplified instructions for learning centres and activities.

Pre-primary School in a Licensed Facility

Oak and Orca Pre-Primary School is licensed as a group care facility for 3 to 5 year olds, and is run by certified Early Childhood Educators, certified Assistants, and certified Teachers. This allows for funding such as childcare subsidy to be applied towards tuition. However, the pre-primary program is not a daycare setting.

Traditional daycares are set up to provide supervision, play opportunities and some limited enriched learning opportunities. The structure and schedule of a daycare are set and success is measured by the ease in which these can be provided.

Oak and Orca Pre-Primary School holds the educational needs of the individual children first and foremost. These needs must be met through structure and scheduling while in a group setting, but the individual children remain the focus of the program. In this way our programming, from the planning stages up, is distinctly different from that of a traditional daycare.

Learning Through Play

The Pre-Primary School is a school for 3 to 5 year olds, and but is not the same as a preschool. While a preschool guides children towards being successful later (in school), the pre-primary school focuses on a child's learning experience in the moment.

Play is highly valued and we take the popular "learning through play" approach to a new level by creating ways for children to extend, reflect and make connections through their play.

We focus on building skills in the areas of language, problem-solving, interpersonal communication, self-awareness, and confidence. We believe these are the foundational educational components for this age group.

We guide children to enhance their skills and knowledge, but do not push an adult concept of academic excellence. For example, while we do focus on the development of reading skills, we do not push children to learn to read by a certain age.

Children's skills are assessed through observation. There are no grades, judgments or comparisons to peers. Anecdotal reports of what the children have been doing at school are provided to parents, as well as serving to inform program planning and individual goals for the child at school.

Foundations of the Pre-primary

The Pre-primary School is founded on the same principles, philosophies and teaching practices that have informed all of our programs since the creation of the school in 1999. A set of Guiding Principles define the philosophy of education which is key to our approach. Upon these foundations, practices continue to be developed to meet the needs of the children and educators in the many varied situations that are a part of life at school.

Educational Practice in the Pre-primary

Child Centred Learning
Child centred learning is at the heart of all the learning opportunities.

Child centred learning puts children at the centre of the education process. Educators become facilitators rather than directors of education. In a child centred environment children are valued as individuals, they are active participants in their education and their entire well-being is considered in planning and providing education. Daddy Long Legs drawn by an Oak and Orca School teacher

Each day at the pre-primary school there will be choices and opportunities to learn in traditional subject areas such as reading, writing, math science as well as bioregional themes such as understanding and connecting with the natural world.

The Open Classroom
The open classroom provides opportunities for individual and small group exploration of learning areas and centres.

There are opportunities to explore reading and language activities, mathematical games, puzzles and experiences, hands-on science activities, small and gross motor experiences, dramatic play and various rotating themed learning centres. Children choose individually from the opportunities displayed on a choice-board, which is changed periodically from day to day.

Workshops
Children join the workshops they wish to participate in. Cone drawn by an Oak and Orca School teacher

The workshops for each day of the week repeat in the following weeks so that children come to know which workshops they enjoy. This empowerment to choose is fundamental to the Oak and Orca philosophy. Educators encourage children to try out new workshops but they don't have to go if they are not fully enjoying it.

Out Trips
Children may walk, take the city bus or cycle in trailers to visit places for a variety of purposes.

Out trips are a regular occurrence. Most out trips explore things that are going on nearby the school, a trip to summit park or a walk to see some construction. Many trips involve exploring the natural areas, parks and beaches. We believe a connection with the natural world is vitally important for a child's growth. Other trips visit places of cultural, natural or social interest. Examples include museums, grocery stores, observation of machines working etc. Back at the school, the same themes are explored through art, drama, reading, writing and other activities. Salal Berries drawn by an Oak and Orca School teacher

Learning Through Play
Much of the learning at the Pre-primary level is learning through play.

At this age, children learn so much by acting out adult roles, building replicas of their environment, drawing what they have seen and experienced, etc. These activities are fully encouraged at Oak and Orca, so much so that educators get fully involved in the play by joining in and gently directing the play towards learning goals.

Learning Through Play

The Pre-primary Open Classroom

An Open classroom is an active environment where children are encouraged to make age-appropriate decisions about their own learning. Learning is a personal endeavour, and children become free to learn from each other and by exploring a set learning environment in their own unique way. For the pre-primary school, this means arranging an environment with learning centres and choices, and allowing the child to freely choose from a range of options.

The educator arranges the open classroom for success and focuses on the way individuals are using the room.

In the open classroom, the educator has two distinct roles. The first is to arrange the learning environment for choice and exploration, and the second is to know every child. The educator must know children's likes and dislikes, their interests and their strengths. Using this information, individuals can be gently encouraged to reach their potential and to expand their experience. It is also this knowledge of individual children's needs and interests that informs changes to the learning environment and future choices. In this way, the educator is able to control the environment to best meet the needs of a particular group of children. Ant drawn by an Oak and Orca School teacher

In the open classroom, opportunities are created for children to explore, experience and try out new ideas.

Experiential learning is key in an open classroom. Both the educator's and the children's creativity drive the construction of new knowledge. New experiences allow children to build upon what they already know or believe to be true. In this way the environment enriches the child's growing understanding of the world and how things work around them. They do not rely on being told what is what. Children trust their own observations and test out their ideas by trying things out. In this way a natural form of the scientific process is observed.

In the open classroom, children are provided with choices so that what they experience is not predetermined by an authority.

In an open classroom, the educator maintains the responsibility for arranging the learning environment, but is able to pass on some of the choice and responsibility to the children. Children have opportunities for group involvement, but do not always have to do what the rest of the group is doing. An emergent curriculum evolves out of the interests and ideas of the children. When children learn to make informed, considered choices, they are self- confident individuals. When they make choices about how they learn best and what their interests are, they come to be life-long learners.

Learning opportunities include: The Open Classroom, Workshops, and Out Trips. In all three, a child centred approach provides a caring environment where children can thrive.

Pre-primary Learning Experiences

Oak and Orca Pre-primary school is a place of exploration and investigation. Educators are trained in the bioregional methods of the school to encourage natural learning in all areas. Through the experiences listed below, and many more not mentioned here, we see children grow to be unique individuals, able to take risks to try new things and express their feelings and needs. Each progresses wholistically at an individual pace through developmental stages.

Reading
Through read-alouds, individual and group reading, and language experience methods, experience with reading is truly enjoyable.

Children can take the process as far as they like from simply enjoying being read to to learning independent reading skills. This experiencial approach provides plenty of exposure so that at the right time - no matter when that is - children will have the background skills necessary for the task of learning to read.

dragonfly drawn by an Oak and Orca school teacher Science
Not just a subject to read about, science makes much more sense if it is experienced.

Science is explored through learning centres, workshops and field trips. Hands-On investigations lead children to draw their own conclusions from real world application of scientific principles. Our pilosophy is that experience derives understanding and understanding leads to long term knowledge of how the world works around us.

Communication
Communication of feelings and needs is key in helping children to understand one another as well as to gain a deeper understanding of themselves.

Compassionate communication is modeled to children through normal interactions and put into practice by the children through mediation and discussions. As they experience and begin to use their methods of communication in their everyday lives, children begin to be more aware of themselves and their own needs. Expressing and hearing the needs is the cornerstone of a compassionate approach.

Writing
All children at the school experience themselves as successful writers.

Through the early stages of learning to write-including drawing, scribbling, writing letters, and telling stories-children are accepted as writers. Knowing one is a writer at the early stage builds confidence for practice and success into the future. Group writing of various types-stories, journals, poetry, articles, etc.-lead to important composition skills without the necessity of independent printing skills. As children are ready, opportunities always exist to mature the independent skills through inventive spelling and awareness of where words can be found in the classroom.

Mathematics
Throughout the day children have access to mathematical materials and are encouraged to count, sort, find patterns and otherwise build their math awareness.

Mathematical development is naturally drawn from play experiences, exploring materials and problem solving challenges. Trained educators are able to interject a variety of play experiences with mathematical practice. A block building game, for instance, may become a counting game or one where towers are added together. Swallow drawn by an Oak and Orca School teacher

In addition at special math times, young children choose from mathematical experiences on the Math Menu just like the older kids in other parts of the school. These fun activities are drawn from a range of mathematical areas and provide opportunities for individualized and group instruction in math concepts including numeracy, patterns, chance, logic and measurement. Our ongoing experience shows that when children "play" with math, they learn it naturally.

Themes
Integration of experience is provided when the opportunities are linked into themes based on interests and real experiences.

While there are no contrived thematic units imposed by educators, themes are drawn out of children's natural play, sights and scenes from field trips or interests derived from reading. Themes allowed to take their natural course, ending when interest subsides and turns to new ideas. This natural process follows the ebbs and flows of the group rather than the needs of the educator.

Learning Through Choice
Children are given a voice to express themselves and permission to choose from a variety of playful learning opportunities.

Self-paced learning is an important component of the Oak and Orca program throughout the school. Children are never forced to learn at Oak and Orca. Families who desire a place where encouragement and experiencial opportunities guid natural learning will feel at home at Oak and Orca. Those who prefer a fully academic program will not be happy with our wholistic approach.

Program Fees

As a licenced facility, our fees are set to accommodate an 8:1 ratio.

Swallow drawn by an Oak and Orca School teacher Pre-primary school fees are $650 per child per month. The program runs from 9:00 to 3:00, with drop-off available starting at 8:30. The additional fee for after school care (3:00-5:00) is $100 per month.

A limitted number of spaces may be available for children to attend the program one or two days per week. Part-time fess are $35 per day (9:00-3:00.) After care fees (3:00-5:00) are $10 per day.

There is one other fee, $100 per year for school supplies and activities. While parents are asked to provide appropriate clothing, raingear and a bicycle helmet, this fee covers the school supplies and field trip costs.

Childcare subsidy can be applied to the school fees if you qualify. If you have more than one child in our programs, a discount may apply.