At the ISUtrecht, early years encompasses kindergarten and grade 1 (students from 4 to 7 years old); a periode of huge emotional, social, physical and cognitive development.
Students can start kindergarten at the age of four which means, depending on the student’s birthday, they will be in kindergarten for two to two and half years. After two to two and a half years, students transition to grade 1 when they are socially, emotionally, and cognitively developmentally ready.
Independence is an important part of the early years at ISUtrecht. Before starting school, students are expected to be able to use the toilet independently. With the help of parents and teachers, we teach the students to independently put on their jackets, shoes, scarves, and gloves. We further foster independence within their learning in our play-based learning environment.
Curious to see what our Early Years classes look like? Please watch this film on the ISUtrecht YouTube channel in which Meher (4) and Kiyara (5) how you their day in KG Yellow.
Social and emotional development
In the early years, we focus comprehensively on the developmental needs of each student, creating a conducive environment that not only promotes our students’ academic growth, but also their emotional, social and physical development, establishing a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. We do this through inquiry, concept and play based learning.
Social and emotional development is a key pillar to our early years program. Students learn about the world around them through social interactions. These social interactions are also vital to emotional and language development. These are some of their first interactions with listening, sharing, group decision making, taking responsibility and cooperating. In these years, the students begin to develop emotional regulation and a range of other vital skills.
In the 2021-2022 school year the ISUtrecht started to introduce yoga in all the KG classes. You can find out all about the benefits of yoga to our youngest students by reading this article by KG and yoga teacher Dana Hill.
Numbers and letters
Academically, students are beginning to build their awareness of numbers and letters. In kindergarten, students explore letters, the form and sounds, and numbers through different play provocations. In grade one, students take the phoneme, grapheme and numeric awareness that was fostered in kindergarten and are introduced to guided reading and more in-depth math and language units of inquiryf to guided reading and more in-depth math and language units of inquiry. To find out more about mathematics in KG, please read this article by KG teacher Oliver Allport.
Students have transdisciplinary units of inquiry where they inquire into different concepts that fall under the IB’s transdisciplinary themes: Who we are, Where we are in place and time, How do express yourself, Sharing the planet, How the world works, and How we organise ourselves.
Play based learning
We believe that play based learning is the best way to teach and support the whole child physically, socially, emotionally, personally, spiritually, creatively, cognitively and linguistically. Through play the children are in charge of their own learning, which helps them develop autonomy, self-confidence and independence.
Approaches to Learning Skills
While children are engrossed in play, children are actively practicing their Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills. They use their research skills to organise the information gathered by sorting it, making their own connections with the topic discussed in class and their prior knowledge, and formulating their own questions. Furthermore, when playing, children are encountering problems they need to solve on their own, which develops their self-management skills and perseverance. They are risk takers by trying things out, making mistakes and coming to a conclusion of what went wrong, so they can fix it, which develops their thinking and creative skills. To find out a bit more about play based learning, please read this article by KG teacher Raakhee Ramaija.
Play is the first level of collaboration and how children learn all basic social skills. While playing with others, children are making decisions, listening to other’s perspectives and voicing their own opinion practicing their communication skills.
Within the IB, the learning environment acts as another teacher in the classroom supporting student learning, independence, and agency. Many of the classrooms have an outside door, providing access to the primary playground for outside learning or the school gardens in which our students grow their own flowers, fruit, and vegetables. To find out more about learning environments, please read this article by KG teacher Annika Doornenbal.
At the end of the kindergarten and grade 1 corridor, you can find a fenced off early years playground. This space has been specifically designed for our youngest students and includes a variety of terrains for them to explore. There is a wooden climbing frame in the centre of a large sandpit which the children love to think of as a ‘castle’. There are ample buckets and shovels used to dig and build things in the sand, as well as excavating mud to play in the mud kitchens.