Parent Voices: Two

Nursery & Kindergarten Parent

Before arriving at Wheeler, what were you looking for in a preschool program? For your child and for yourself as a parent?

We were searching for a play-based early childhood program with ample time for movement and outdoor play. We wanted a strong core curriculum complemented by music, Spanish, art, library, and other extensions of the curriculum. We wanted our children to grow up in a happy and loving environment where learning is appreciated. We wanted a program that focused on establishing friendships and understanding and respecting differences among people. Wheeler was a place we could see our children developing their special talents.

How has our program helped your child(ren) thrive?

Wheeler consistently implements effective pedagogical methods in early childhood learning. Whether it is Heggerty Phonemic Awareness, Handwriting Without Tears, Singapore Math in Focus, Kodaly and Orff music, or the RULER approach to social-emotional learning, there are purposeful, scaffolded methods within the curriculum, but they are woven into a play-based experience so that the children are constantly having fun. Our three-year-old son comes home making rhymes and alliterations or talking about good versus bad feelings. Our five-year-old daughter notices a group of dots on her polka-dot bath towel and subitizes them as three groups of three dots totaling nine. The early childhood faculty works hard to offer age-appropriate activities and student-led inquiries that inspire our kids to want to learn more. These methods are balanced and intertwined with free play, where they can jump into leaf piles, sled down Columbine Hill, scramble up boulders, or build bridges. Our kids come home happy, tired, and excited for more.

Particularly, what elements of our nature-based learning approach have been beneficial?

Wheeler’s nature-based preschool program is excellent at fostering:

  1. Strong executive functioning skills. Before stepping outside after morning meeting and calendar time, our kids have to decide what gear to wear for the elements and they have to put it on themselves. Once outside, they initiate play in the natural environment without toys. A boulder becomes a home, a stick becomes a fire hose, a piece of quartz rock becomes a valuable crystal. This ability to self-direct play is invaluable, and we have noticed our children pushing past their personal limitations, both physical and emotional.
  2. Strong interpersonal skills and group collaboration. Wheeler Farm offers unlimited opportunities for building communication skills and working with others. A fallen tree blocking a hiking path becomes a group discussion about solutions on how to get to their destination. A corduroy bridge built by a group of three-year-olds lacks stability and requires them to help each other walk across. The beauty of being in nature is that the group collaboration does not seem forced.
  3. A deep interest in and respect for the natural world. Now more than ever, education needs to focus on stewardship of our planet. However, children first need to fall in love with nature, and that happens in early childhood at Wheeler. Our children come home from school talking about plants, animals, and myriad other organisms. They hear woodpeckers and wonder about different cloud formations. They ask questions about natural phenomena and notice changes in weather. They observe the same tree in all four seasons. They watch chipmunks run and hide in cobblestone fences. They crack ice of different thickness and try to catch snowflakes. When we ask our daughter at bedtime something for which she is thankful, she often says, “The Earth.”

Get ready for lots of sticks and rocks in backpacks!

– Nursery & Kindergarten Parent