The stories told are taken directly from the Bible at a level that is appropriate for young children. Teachers use a variety of visuals so the children can comprehend the lesson. We incorporate books, flannel graphs, filmstrips, Big Books, puppets, DVDs, role-playing, and various scenery and backdrops to make the stories more meaningful.
Every three years, we rotate curriculum so that a child can attend three years consecutively and many of the stories will be fresh. Some of the stories, however, remain the same from year to year, such as the birth of Jesus, the story of creation, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Each month the children are introduced to a short Bible verse that is illustrated on an attractive poster. When the children recite the verse, we stamp the kids' hands to remind them to keep God's word in their hearts.
During Creative Learning the children are taught the alphabet by letter identification and sounds along with the numbers 1 through 25. Each week, teachers give the kids a letter and number of the day stamp on the backs of their hands. Older children are introduced to word families and counting by 2s, 5s, and odd and even numbers.
Holidays and seasons are recognized in Creative Learning. Autumn is celebrated with a "Pumpkin Day" full of activities. For Thanksgiving Day, the children gather around a pretend fire outside a teepee and learn about Native Americans. Valentine's Day is centered on the emotion of love. On Presidents' Day the children learn the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, and they talk about the American Flag and our country.
During alternating years in Creative Learning, we include a unit about Community Helpers. Elmhurst firefighters, police officers, and nurses visit the Creative Learning classes to teach the children about their work and role in the community. They come with many props for the children to explore.
We rotate the science and social studies curriculum every three years. These units are taught with a variety of action poems, "Big Books," CDs, posters, puppets, games, and experiments. When possible, live creatures, such as rabbits, hermit crabs, ants, ladybugs, butterflies, and earthworms, are on display. A flexible list of units is below:
Year One: Ladybugs, frogs, farm, character development (bullying, controlling temper, speaking the truth), nursery rhymes, bees, shapes, dinosaurs, magnets, patterns, sea life, garbage, sink or float, community helpers (3 weeks), opposites, popcorn, tools, rocks and soil, animal habitats, seeds, worms.
Year Two: Butterflies, apples, newts, the four seasons, insects, sound, peanuts, pasta, bears, manners, snow, safety, my body, pet day, penguins, birds, wind, ponds, rabbits, space, desert, bubbles.
Year Three: Hermit crabs, squirrels, senses (5 weeks), transportation, skeletons, community helpers (3 weeks), vegetable gardens, weather, ants, you are what you eat, animals in hiding, kids for the earth, feelings, time, sorting out things, energy, popcorn, rhyming words.
The songs that the children learn in music teach biblical truths that stay with the children their entire lives. The melodies come alive in the minds and the hearts of these small children. When combined with the actions that accompany them, they create lasting memories.
Generally, the children are taught a song that accompanies the Bible story taught that week. For example: When we learn about Jonah, they'll sing "Hey Jonah!". Then the song is reviewed in the weeks following.
We also include a few welcome songs that the children learn to help them learn the names of the children in their class at the beginning of each semester.
The children also learn songs that relate to holidays, such as Thanksgiving Day ("Thank You, Lord, For Making Me"), Valentine's Day ("Say to the Lord I Love You"), as well as others.
Some weeks musical instruments are added.
Throughout the semester, the children spend some time preparing for either their Christmas or Spring musicals. We have a rotation of themes for Christmas such as "The Gospel Bell That Would Not Stop Ringing," "The Message of the Angels," "King of Kings," or "Follow the Star." The Spring Program includes one of the following: Prince of Egypt," "The Floating Zoo," "David and Goliath," or "The Lions Weren't Hungry Last Night."
Free Play gives the kids many diverse play opportunities. The children enjoy the large Brio train table with intertwining tracks and many bridges. It can be covered with a large wooden lid that contains pegs that can be hammered with small plastic hammers. Their transportation play continues on a large printed rug where toy cars and trains follow roads and railroad tracks.
Another highlight for the boys and girls is the kitchen set: a stove, a refrigerator, and a sink connected by interlocking shelving extensions. We also have two cash registers where children buy and sell over 75 plastic food items using laminated play money. A favorite in this area is a toy coffee pot, complete with realistic coffee-pouring sound effects. Adjacent to the kitchen and rounding out the "house" portion of the play area is a doll twin bunk set.
At other tables in the Free Play area, children can play with blocks, Legos, and freshly-made play dough. There is also a long tablecloth with bus windows on the sides, under which the children play and pretend.
Free Play also has a "quiet corner" where the children can sit on a beanbag and read books.
However, each week we have special activities in Free Play! These include a water table, bubble blowing, painting (with smocks!), the rice table, stamps of various shapes, texture crayon drawings, tracing, drawing on a white board, and having fun with magnetic shapes on the white board. There are a variety of puzzles with large pieces that the children play with that correspond to their theme in Creative Learning.
We design the crafts to reinforce the lesson being taught with each Bible story, and a few of them relate to the season of the year. Most of the crafts that the children make are made of permanent materials, such as mat board or wood. Some of the other crafts are sponge paintings, lacing, stringing beads, etc. Many of them are put on wooden stands so they can be displayed at home. Others have magnets on the back of them so they can be displayed on a refrigerator. We use a variety of media, such as crayons, paint, chalk, markers, buttons, and dirt for planting.
Some sessions the children are given a worksheet. They can work on it if they get their project done early or they can take it home for their "homework" paper. These papers usually involve looking for hidden objects, matching objects or connecting the dots.
If a child is absent, we save their craft projects for several weeks, along with the books that we frequently send home. These stay available on the shelf across from the registration table.