Children, like adults, learn best when they are engaged in experiences that they are interested in. At Annie Dennis Kindergarten children actively engage in a play based program that is built around their strengths and interests, whilst reflecting the aims and outcomes of the new Early Years Learning Framework. Children are encouraged to be involved in “real” experiences such as connecting with people outside the family, weeding the garden, cooking, and taking care of kindergarten resources. We believe kindergarten is not just about preparation for school, but preparation for life.
We believe the arts are a powerful motivator for learning. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer in art, and this helps the children to develop their confidence. We offer many open-ended art materials daily for children to express their ideas. The drawing table is a permanent fixture of our room, and children are constantly encouraged to represent their thinking graphically. There is a strong link between drawing and literacy: children are putting meaning to the marks that they make and creating “language”.
Our beautiful outdoor space sets Annie Dennis apart from many kindergartens, and contains a beautiful Moreton Bay Fig, the oldest tree in Northcote. The outdoor area also features a chicken run of three much loved hens Penguin, Cracker and Egghead. Children take turns to collect the eggs which are taken home or used in cooking activities. Our resident rascally rabbit Billy Boy can often be found hopping around the garden, digging in the mud patch or nibbling on the shrubbery. The children are actively involved in the daily care of our kindergarten pets, which helps them to build a love of nature and interconnectedness with the environment.
Educators observe children regularly and keep written records to build a picture of each child’s individual needs and interests and how best to develop their potential. Together with the information shared by the child’s family, we use this knowledge to plan a high quality program suited to each child and the group. While similar interests often crop up, the curriculum evolves, and no year is ever the same. We might focus on a set of objectives for longer than two weeks because we need more time to achieve it when there is a strong interest displayed by the children in a particular experience. Children are encouraged to actively contribute, to set up their own play experiences and come up with their own ideas for the curriculum through group discussion. After all, it’s their program.