Behnke Preschool uses the theme based Creative Curriculum. By selecting topics of high interest to our students the opportunities for active involvement in the process of learning are increased.
Today's early childhood specialists stress the importance of presenting curriculum in an integrated format, rather than spending short periods of time focusing on separate subject or content areas. Researchers have identified the organization of the curriculum around thematic units, as an indicator of quality early childhood programs. Our theme approach includes activities in early math, science, social studies, language, music, art, and social skills.
The art area is a place for children to express their feelings and ideas in a creative way. As children manipulate art materials (crayons, glue sticks, paper) they refine small muscle movements in their hands, getting them ready for writing. Art also fosters vocabulary development as theme related projects are included in the art area.
The block area is one of the most versatile and important areas in the classroom. Wooden blocks appeal to young children because they feel good to the touch, are symmetrical, and invite open ended expression. Early math skills are developed as children play with blocks. Children learn about sizes, shapes, numbers, order, area, length, patterns, and weight as they select, build with, and put away blocks. Language development is facilitated in the block area as children use their language to describe their creations as well as practice their social problem solving skills to navigate the busy block area.
All aspects of literacy – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – can be strengthened in the Book Corner. Children develop phonological awareness through listening to new words and trying them on their own. Children also begin to appreciate print as a teacher reads aloud the title and author while pointing to them on the cover of a book. Books provide children with the opportunity to practice their own story telling skills as they flip through pages and make up their own words. Math and science concepts are conveyed through theme-related books about real life concepts.
The Discovery area is filled with a variety of materials for children to manipulate, examine, and discuss. Toys such as wooden beads, peg boards, and puzzles facilitate development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination which are important for writing. They also develop reading skills such as left-to-right progression, visual discrimination, and matching similar objects. Magnets, magnifying glasses, and rulers spike curiosity as children explore materials in a whole new way. Spoken language skills strengthen as children ask "Why?" questions and learn new vocabulary in the process.
Dramatic Play Area
In the dramatic play area, children explore real life scenarios while using their imagination to create different roles and routines. Children develop valuable social skills such as turn taking, sharing, and cooperation while pretending to be a fire fighter, doctor, or a grocery store clerk. New theme vocabulary is practiced spontaneously in the dramatic play area as well more advanced language skills such as asking and answering questions. The dramatic play area is also a vessel to practice early math and science skills such as counting money (Grocery Store theme) and labeling body parts (Doctor's Office theme).
The sensory table is many children's favorite place in the preschool classroom. Children learn early math and science skills as they dump and pour a variety of materials into strainers, measuring cups, and mills. Language development is also targeted at the sensory table due to the opportunity to use new theme related vocabulary that may not otherwise be mentioned (rough, sticky, and slimy).