In the Steiner Academy Exeter, children from Reception and Year 1 are combined in mixed-age kindergartens, each of around 17 or 18 children. Each kindergarten group is led by a specially trained kindergarten teacher supported by at least one assistant.
The foundation skills in literacy and numeracy are laid through an environment rich in hands-on activity and play, and where language and communication are enabled through a rich oral tradition. Formal learning of the three R’s does not feature: children learn these skills more effectively when they have been given the time and opportunity to first develop socially, emotionally and physically in a creative, secure and harmonious environment.
The kindergarten day
The kindergarten day follows a predictable pattern, alternating child-led time with a teacher-led activity. The day includes a period of free play which can take place inside or out, and alongside a particular activity such as baking, painting or handicraft.
The day is allowed to develop around regular and repetitive activity, such as circle-time, which includes songs and rhythmical verses, music and movement. The snack, prepared by adults and children, is shared together around the table where the mood is relaxed and social.
Other activities include painting, drawing, crafts and the domestic arts such as cooking, baking, cleaning and caring for self and others. The strong tradition of oral storytelling and puppetry is part of every morning, and usually ends the session.
For those children who remain at school in the afternoons (and a good number go home at lunch time, depending on their age and family circumstances), afternoon care provision includes lunch, rest time and a longer period of play, generally outside. The morning session which has its own rhythm, is very different from that of the afternoon, and is not repeated once again. The strong
sense of routine helps the child to know what to expect and fosters a sense of security.
Very careful consideration is given to the impact of everything in the kindergarten environment upon all the senses of a young child. There should be no ‘hard’ corners, no strong colours and, as far as possible, all the furniture and toys will be made of natural materials, as will some of the equipment such as beeswax crayons and sheep’s fleece.
The kindergartens have their own protected and safe natural outdoor area and whenever the opportunity presents itself, the children are taken to a place where they can experience nature, sometimes spending the whole morning outside.
The festivals, seasonal and cultural, are celebrated, and parents are often invited to join in.