Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a flame.
— William Butler Yeats

Princeton Junior School’s Early Childhood Program is designed with our youngest learners in mind. Families may choose from several programs offered throughout the day including our half-day, full day and after school programs.

A Reggio Emilia-inspired Approach to Learning and An International Baccalaureate Curriculum Framework

 The Early Childhood Program at PJS focuses on the whole child: his/her social, emotional, behavioral, physical and pre-academic development, and is based upon a variety of concepts introduced throughout the school year.  Activities used to reinforce our discussions consist of hands-on projects, creative art, games, music and movement, stories and, most importantly, play.  Field trips are scheduled to complement selected themes throughout the course of the year.  The classes are designed specifically for children 2 - 3.5 and 3.5 - 5 years old and we offer the flexibility to meet varying levels of development within each class.

A Reggio Emilia-Inspired Approach to Learning

The Reggio philosophy cultivates principles of community, responsibility, and respect. In our Reggio-inspired early childhood classes, children are viewed as competent and curious. The child communicates his/her interests and queries through observations, conversations, discussions and choices. There is constant collaboration between the teacher, child, and parent. The teacher serves as a partner, supporter and guide to help the child, or group of children, follow their interests on an inquiry. Children develop problem-solving skills as teachers help refine children’s hypotheses and theories. Parents support this process as well, as they share ideas and skills that support the learning taking place in the classroom. The Reggio Emilia Approach celebrates the joy in discovery and it prepares children to be creative, self-confident learners and citizens.

The Reggio Emilia Approach places an emphasis on the classroom environment and considers the environment as an additional teacher .  It encourages the use of the outdoors and believes it is essential to bring the natural world into the classroom.  There is also particular attention placed on aesthetic awareness.

Teacher documentation is an assessment tool that also informs instructional and curricular decisions.  Learning is made visible and communicated to the community (parent, child, teachers) through representations of the children’s investigations.  Documentation includes photographs, video, drawings and other artifacts generated by the children. It also contains the teacher’s commentary on the purpose of the study and the process of learning. 

Studio: Artistic Awareness

Art experiences are provided daily in the classroom as well as in the Studio. The focus in our Early Childhood Art program is the process rather than the product. We encourage children to explore material through touch and experimentation. We allow them to linger and take their time. There is never a rush to move on to the next thing.  At the same time, we are sure to provide many different experiences that build upon each other to help children gain competency with a variety of materials.

In the toddler and preschool classes, the Early Childhood Studio teacher uses art and an array of natural materials as tools for exploration and investigation of the world.  Using various mediums in the arts, science, and technology, this artist collaborates with the classroom teacher to support children's inquiry and broaden their experience. 

Special Subjects

Children in the Early Childhood Program participate in the following special subjects each week:

  • Learning Through Landscapes 
  • Windows to the World
  • The Arts
  • Spanish
  • Technology
  • Personal, Social, and Physical Education (PSPE)

Learn more about our Special Subjects

International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP)

At PJS, an authorized IB World School, the Primary Years Program (PYP) begins in our Preschool class and continues through grade 5.  The aim of all IB programs is to “develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.”

The IB PYP provides a concept-driven curriculum framework that facilitates inquiry-based learning.  By integrating the core principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach to learning, the PJS Early Childhood Program provides an education that fosters curiosity, self-confidence and a joy of learning.  Both the IB PYP framework and the Reggio Emilia approach encourage children to wonder, explore, and take the lead in their learning.

An Inquiry-based Curriculum

In a dynamic classroom that embraces an inquiry-based, emergent curriculum, teachers watch and study the class in action, carefully observing the children’s play. The teachers base their plans upon the children’s interests as well as their knowledge of the developmental needs of the children in their class. The IB framework provides the teachers with four units of inquiry each year. These units will typically last 4 - 6 weeks and will include topics related to social studies and science. They are also transdisciplinary and will include collaboration with all of our ‘specials’ teachers.

Co-Teaching in Mixed Age Classes

Within the Early Childhood Program, mixed age classes promote development through problem solving opportunities that occur between learners of different abilities and maturity levels. Mixed age settings invite children to cooperate and exchange ideas, stimulating enthusiasm for learning and inspiring independent thinking.  Children of varying ages create a multi-dimensional classroom that supports both novices and experts.  

Our co-teaching model broadens the repertoire of instructional opportunities available to teachers and allows for greater individualized attention, thoughtful planning, instruction and assessment.