Lower School


The pre-kindergarten program is a mixed-aged classroom of three and four year olds. It is designed to be developmental, meeting the needs of individual learners. The girls flourish in an environment that is exploratory and gives them ample opportunities to be leaders, peer tutors, and models for each other. The all-girls school environment, combined with the mixed-age class, allows them to find their voice, empowers them as problem solvers, and gives them opportunities to be empathic and to teach as well as to learn.

Three and four year olds are full of wonder and curiosity. They are typically lively, adventurous, and full of life, finding pleasure in new experiences, games, people, and places. They learn best through play and by engaging in active, hands-on activities that are language enriched. The pre-kindergarten experience is new and exciting, but it can also be a time of apprehension in a new environment, as they work to make new friends and meet new expectations, learn to manage needs, and learn how to work within the routines and requirements of a community. Independence and curiosity are nurtured while the girls are gently encouraged to try new skills and unfamiliar tasks that help develop emerging literacy, numeracy, social, and emotional skills. 

The Curriculum

List of 6 items.

  • Curriculum Overview

    The pre-kindergarten program is hands-on and interactive. The six domains of learning are embedded in the learning centers and small group instruction, working in tandem with our thematic curriculum. The girls have many opportunities to work in centers throughout the classroom that help them with skill and concept development from beginning to mastery. Girls are given a variety of opportunities to work on developing their skills, knowledge, and understanding. The thematic units provide the girls with an authentic way to connect what they are learning about the world around them with practice on their emerging literacy, numeracy, and reasoning skills and developing social awareness.

    Teachers and students may take turns leading activities around their interests and passions. Girls learn to use their voices, to be peer tutors and models, and to practice their social skills, thereby strengthening their sense of community and connection.

    The program fosters curiosity, independence,and a lifelong love of learning. Every girl is successful in this child-centered environment. The classroom is well thought out and allows for the girls to independently access materials they need and to store items for future use. The room is intentionally structured to ensure that developmental milestones are achieved across all learning domains. Play is also a strong component of the program. The girls process what they are learning, develop language skills, problem-solve, compromise, and invent when given creative time and a dedicated space. The girls grow in every way—they are happy and confident learners and friends.
  • Themes

    The curriculum is delivered through units that have specific themes relating to the young learners’ world. Embedded within each theme are activities that address small and large motor skills, language learning, self-esteem, socialization, and creativity as well as discovery and exploration of the world around them. Unit or theme information and activities are organized into four centers: numeracy, literacy, science/social studies, and creative expression.

    Classroom topics will rotate through these primary themes over the course of the two-year program cycle:
    • The Wonderful World of We
    • Neighborhood and Our Community
    • Fall Harvest and Fall Celebrations
    • Transportation
    • Holidays and Traditions
    • Winter Weather
    • History
    • Dr. Seuss and Rhyme Time
    • New Beginnings and Life Cycles
    • Weather and Insects
    • Pond Life and Insects
    • Water
    • Construction
    • Rainforest
    • Ocean
  • Art

    Pre-Kindergarten students are the youngest members of the Ellis School Community, and every activity is designed to fit into the Pre-Kindergarten curriculum. In their art class, Pre-K girls will enjoy their first introduction to a wide variety of materials and techniques.

    Class themes include line, value, color, shape, texture, size/scale, and design. Students partake in cross-curricular activities, explore two- and three-dimensional techniques, and learn about famous artists.

    Two- and Three-Dimensional Art Experiences for Pre-Kindergarten
    • Painting with acrylic, watercolor, and tempera
    • Chalk blending
    • Pencil sketching
    • Oil crayon and watercolor
    • Chalk and starch
    • Printing with foam rollers
    • Clay
    • Polymer clay
    • Plaster
    • Stuffed sculpture
  • Library

    Young children love a good story! Weekly trips to the library give them the opportunity to hear a story read aloud and to choose a book to check out and take home.

    Students learn to be gentle with library books, especially when it comes to turning pages. The girls get into the habit of returning their book each week. Learning responsibility is part of going to the library.

    • To encourage a love of reading
    • To introduce the library as a place to find wonderful books
    • To promote listening skills
  • Music

    Pre-Kindergarten students will have a rich environment in which to grow, one that includes a variety of sound sources, selected recorded music for listening and creative movement, and opportunities to play classroom instruments and sing. Students will explore the various elements of music: up/down, high/low, loud/soft, and fast/slow. 

    Units of study 
    • Introduction to Music Class
    • Musical Sounds
    • Steady Beat
    • Staging and Song for the Lower School Musical
    • Melody and Mozart
    • Musical Staff
    • Exploring the Glockenspiel
    • Singing, Playing, and Writing Melodic Patterns
    • Song (and Staging) for Closing Exercises
  • Physical Education

    The goal of Pre-K Physical Education (PE) is to promote the enjoyment of physical activity and to allow Pre-K students to explore a wide variety of movements as well as to enhance the PE experience by using equipment properly. The physical realm is only a part of PE. Social, emotional, and cognitive development is encouraged with stress on such concepts as safety, cooperation, self-control, listening skills, and spatial awareness. The games and activities in PE will make use of each child’s natural creativity, imagination, curiosity, and boundless energy. One of the areas that will be addressed is locomotor movements which include walking, running, skipping, hopping, galloping, and sliding. Age appropriate music and role play activities allow the girls to practice each of these skills. Balloons, parachutes, playground balls, and balance beams open up a new world of experiences.

    Units and unit focus
    • Classroom management: following directions and gymnasium rules, taking turns, working well with others
    • Locomotor/Dance: walking, skipping, galloping, hopping, jumping, sliding, running/rhythm
    • Balloons: striking, tracking
    • Creative Movement and Exploration
    • Beanbag/Koosh/Balls: introduction to throwing and catching underhand
    • Gymnastics: stretches, animal imitations, balance beam, focusing on motor development
    • Performance: participation in rehearsals and performance for the Physical Education Show
    • Manipulative: parachute, scooter, hoops, obstacle courses
    • Tag, relay races, and other novelty games
    • Cup Speed Stacking: improves ambidexterity, concentration, and hand-eye coordination.

Co-curricular Highlights

List of 5 items.

  • Candlelight Recital

    Two recitals are given every year in the Lower School, one in February and one in May. February’s Candlelight Recital has participants from grades two through four who study instrumental music, voice, or dance outside of the regular school day. May’s Candlelight Mini has participants from Pre-Kindergarten through grade one who study instrumental music or dance. Parents, grandparents, and special friends are invited to attend the Candlelight Recital.
  • Field Trips

    Pre-Kindergarten takes three field trips each year.  Each trip correlates with the themes and activities in the curriculum.
  • Heritage Day

    Students in all divisions honor the cultures and heritages of their classmates on Heritage Day. Family traditions are shared and their histories discussed, and costumes and dress of each child’s heritage is worn. It is a day to look beyond the American culture to other countries around the world.
  • Holiday Celebrations

    The Pre-K social studies program allows the students to learn more about the holidays that we celebrate in our culture. Lessons and activities are designed to explain the holiday and includes crafts, activities, and songs. Some classroom parties support traditional holidays, such as Halloween and Valentine's Day.
  • Language and Literacy

    Students in Pre-K build language and beginning literacy skills in many fun, engaging ways.  These activities support our program:  ABC bag, "Wordlee," "Mama Wordlee," in-class visits from a Carnegie librarian, and Girl of the Week.