Early Childhood Program

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PJS Early Childhood Program (ECP)

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 for children aged 2-5.  

The ECP focuses on the whole child- social, emotional, behavioral, physical and pre-academic development.  Our main goal in teaching young children is to provide experiences that encourage them to develop self-awareness, promote confidence, instill a joy of learning, and prepare them for their future primary education and beyond.  This goal is pursued in mixed-age classrooms through a balance of cooperative play and carefully thought-out learning experiences.  Play is an essential aspect of every day.  Through play, children learn to think, reason, and develop important social and pre-academic skills.  


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How Reggio Emilia Influences our Early Childhood Program

Our toddler and preschool classrooms, teachers and teaching practices are influenced by  the Reggio Emilia Philosophy of early childhood education.  This acclaimed approach to early childhood education was founded in Reggio Emilia, Italy by Loris Malaguzzi. The fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia approach in the education of young  children focuses on the view of the child. While many preschool programs view the child as an “empty vessel,” a major tenet of the Reggio Approach is that the child is capable, curious and interested in subjects worthy of exploring deeply.  The child communicates his/her interests and queries through observations, conversations, discussions and choices. There is constant collaboration between the teacher, child and parent as the emergent curriculum unfolds.  The teacher serves as a partner, supporter and guide to help the child, or group of children, follow their interests in an inquiry.  Children develop problem-solving skills as teachers help refine children’s hypotheses and theories.  

Classroom Environment

The Reggio Emilia approach places emphasis on the aesthetics of the classroom environment and considers the environment as an additional teacher.  At Princeton Junior School, children spend much time outdoors and children and teachers bring the natural world into the classroom.  


Teacher documentation informs instructional and curricular decisions.  Through documentation that represents the children’s investigations, learning is made visible and is communicated to the school community (teachers, parents, and children). Documentation includes photographs, drawings and other artifacts generated by the children in addition to the teacher’s commentary on the purpose of the study and the process of learning.



IB Primary Years Program (PYP)

The IB PYP provides the framework of our academic studies in the Early Childhood Program and continues through our K-5 elementary program.  The philosophy of both the PYP and the Reggio Emilia Approach encourage children to wonder and to ask questions, and all areas of development are addressed within classroom projects, studies, and explorations.  This transdisciplinary approach supports the growth of social, emotional and cognitive development and is representative of the Reggio Emilia Approach as well as the IB Primary Years Program.  The basis for this approach is the understanding that children learn best when what they are learning is meaningful, interesting and relevant to their lives.  As a result, we do not schedule separate periods for literacy development, math exploration, science or social studies.  These are taught within the scope of the unit that the children are investigating at any given time.  Early Childhood teachers refer to the DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice) and the IB PYP Scope and Sequence documents to ensure that all children are provided with optimal, age-appropriate experiences in order to build the well-rounded skills they will need as they grow as inquirers.

A Reggio Emilia Approach and the IB Primary Years Program Curriculum Framework

The Reggio Emilia Approach and International Baccalaureate philosophy and framework complement each other.  While Reggio Emilia views the child as a collaborator in learning, the IB PYP develops this mindset and engages children in significant and relevant learning both locally and globally and empowers students to become leaders of their own learning.  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.  For children 3-5 years old, the IB PYP 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 specialist teachers.  The rest of the year will be spent on age appropriate projects, studies and themes that reflect the children’s interests as well as the teacher’s goals for the year.

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 Click to expand each subject/area of development.

Click to expand each subject/area of development.

Personal/Social +

We aim to instill within each child an understanding and appreciation of individuality and diversity. An atmosphere is created to foster the importance of being part of a group- being inclusive and respectful of self and others and having empathy. Children are encouraged to solve social conflicts independently and to respect the rights of others.

Imaginative Interactive Play +

The classrooms are designed with specific play areas to provide children with opportunities to develop independence and self esteem. During independent play, children can express initiative while they develop their language and socialization skills. Activities involving building blocks, manipulatives, dramatic play, and art materials offer experiences that stretch imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills.

Language Arts +

Emergent reading and writing skills are supported authentically in all areas off the classroom. Our ECP teachers understand that children must have many opportunities to interact and play with books and writing materials throughout the classroom each day. Children regularly experience group read alouds, small group storytelling and independent reading time to acquaint children with the structures of reading and the joy of books. Children are invited to write to express themselves. They see their teachers writing, and they are inspired to represent their thoughts on paper. Students in the ECP begin by making marks on paper to represent letters and words. Soon they learn that each letter looks a certain way and they learn to copy and write letters and words. Dictation and storytelling is an important part of early childhood development. Children discover the power of their words as they hear them read back to them.

Math +

Beginning math experiences are most successful when they are hands on and interesting to the children. Manipulatives, games, graphs, and measurement activities are all relevant ways to encourage children to play with numbers and understand early math concepts. At PJS, math is woven into classroom projects and daily jobs.

Social Awareness and Science +

Social Studies and science are taught through our IB units of inquiry. Units on self, family, community, environment and cultural studies develop social awareness. Many opportunities are provided for the integration of science throughout all areas of the day through hands on experiences including gardening, gauging rainfall, investigating nutrition, and experiential outdoor learning.

Physical +

Gross motor skills are developed through use of the whole body through activities such as running, jumping, climbing, swinging and dancing. Fine motor skills are developed using the hands, arms and fingers for activities such as dressing oneself, manipulating stickers, putting together puzzles, cutting with scissors, coloring, painting, and working with sewing cards, glue, eyedroppers, tongs,and other materials. Preschool children also participate in PE classes for 30 minutes twice each week.

The Arts/Aesthetic Education +

Art experiences are provided daily in the classroom as well as in the Atelier/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 without rushing on to the next activity. At the same time, we are sure to provide many different experiences that build upon each other in order to help children gain competency with a variety of materials.

Atelieristas/Studio Teachers +

The atelieristas (studio teachers) collaborate with the Toddler and Preschool students and their teachers to investigate the world using various mediums in the arts, science, and technology. This is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach where two teachers collaborate to support children’s inquiry and broaden their experience with an array of materials.

Special Subjects +

Children in the Early Childhood Program participate in special subjects outside of the classroom. Children in the Toddler Class participate in Learning Through Landscapes, Windows to the World, Performing Arts, and Spanish each week. Preschoolers participate in all of these special subjects in addition to Physical Education. To see more on Special Subjects, click here (link takes you to another page).

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