Early School


Teachers plan hands-on, minds-on experiences inside and outside based on their knowledge of child development and best practices as well as the needs and interests of the children themselves. Ongoing assessment of children’s progress includes the gathering of anecdotal records, digital photographs, developmental checklists and work samples. Annual speech, hearing and vision screenings in the fall and the results of nationally normed developmental screenings (fall and spring) are added to the child’s portfolio to share with parents at two formal conferences each year. Parents also have an opportunity to participate in assessing their child’s development with a parent-report developmental screen, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. All this information gives us a picture of a child’s development and alerts us if more information and support is needed to help a child reach his or her potential.
The St. Margaret’s Early School plans curriculum to support all areas of a child’s development: cognitive, social, emotional, physical and creative. Our curriculum meets or exceeds the California Preschool Learning Foundations, aligns with goals for young children’s learning from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and serves as the foundation for the St. Margaret’s kindergarten curriculum.
Learning in preschool is hands-on and integrated. A child’s time outside chasing insects in the garden, for instance, incorporates all the “dispositions for learning” as well as cognitive development: science (“What kind of bug is this?” “What do they eat?”); math (“Is it larger or smaller than the other one?” “How many did you find today?”); language (“Monarch Butterflies are orange and black.” “Let’s make up a poem about butterflies!”); social skills (“How can we all see?” “You can have a turn next.”); physical development (running after the butterfly, carefully stepping around plants, manipulating the butterfly net); and creative (painting a picture of the butterfly in its habitat. Dancing and moving like one.)
Learning is everywhere and happening all the time supported by teachers skilled at looking for and creating moments of discovery and learning based on children’s needs and interests.

List of 8 items.

  • Art

    St. Margaret’s Early School offers creative art experiences for children daily in the classroom and Atelier (art studio). Children explore and create using a variety of drawing tools, paints, clay, paper, wire, loose parts, natural items and more. By having art materials available everyday, children gain competence with them and are likely to use them in new and more sophisticated ways. Classroom teachers work closely with the Atelierista (art studio teacher) to extend children’s thinking in the Atelier. The Atelier is a place where children are both artists and scientists as they engage with traditional art materials alongside technology to investigate the natural world, express their ideas, and formulate new questions to further their inquiry. Engaging in art as an expressive language as well as a form in inquiry cultivates and strengthens persistence, creativity, problem solving, and flexibility. It also supports children’s understanding of spatial relationships and physics, perspective and proportion, as well as strengthens development in areas such as fine motor dexterity. From using a digital microscope to look at a flower more closely, to creating a sculpture from clay to be fired in our kiln, the children are offered a wide array of experiences, building a foundation for future art and science thinking.
  • Physical Development

    We plan fine and gross motor activities each day both inside and outside. St. Margaret’s has a full-time Perceptual Motor Specialist who sets up motor experiences that stimulate the body systems to gain strength, balance and coordination. Activities are planned to meet children’s needs based on observations, collaboration with classroom teachers and developmental assessments . Activities such as using eye droppers and squeeze bottles to water plants, manipulating art materials to create a masterpiece, pouring and measuring for cooking activities and playing with playhouse people are the foundation skills that build strength in muscles used for writing. Through motor activities the children will: 
    • Gain confidence and good body image 
    • Learn to control eye-hand coordination 
    • Develop fine motor dexterity and control as a foundation for writing 
    • Demonstrate balance and control during loco-motor movements 
    • Use muscles to manipulate objects and control environment
  • Dramatic Play/Drama

    Children don’t need much encouragement to pretend and engage in dramatic play. It is second nature to them. They’ll create it in the playhouse (in or outside) in the sandbox, with unit blocks and animals and people inside, with the hollow blocks and hard hats outside, on bikes, in the garden... everywhere! In dramatic play, the children will: 
    • Use their creativity and imagination 
    • Work out fears and worries 
    • Sort through their understandings of fantasy and reality 
    • Try on roles, learn about their world 
    • Enhance vocabulary and receptive (listening) and expressive (speaking) language skills 
    • Gain the ability to plan, organize & clean up! 
    • Develop focus and concentration 
    • Practice self-regulation and problem-solving 
    • Explore concepts of “fair” and practice turn-taking, cooperation and sharing 
    • Use symbolic thought 
    • Retell and reenact events in stories
  • Language & Literacy

    Books (story books, non-fiction or poetry) are read to children each day at group time and one-on-one throughout the day both inside and outside. Children have flannel board stories to retell favorites or create their own. Children make individual or class books to document experiences and celebrate the imagination. We provide children with opportunities for meaningful conversations with us and each other throughout the day. Through dramatic play, table top games, group time activities and casual conversations with teachers and each other, the children will:
    • Practice listening, asking and responding to questions 
    • Be encouraged to express ideas, develop age-appropriate grammar and learn new vocabulary 
    • Develop phonemic and phonological awareness by: playing with the sounds of words, matching sounds and rhymes, clapping out syllables, predicting story outcomes 
    • Identify the alphabet as a special category of symbols  
    • Recognize beginning letters in familiar words and associate letters with sounds 
    • Discover that letters make up words and words make up sentences 
    • Begin to think of themselves as authors by beginning to understand that books are “talk written down”, 
    • Listen to and make up their own stories and poems 
    • Enjoy representing their own ideas through drawing or dictation 
    • Experiment with writing to communicate ideas, including writing their name 
    • Move along the reading continuum
  • Mathematics

    Math is everywhere—inside and outside. Children love to count and compare things. Through blocks, science and nature activities, dramatic play, art, music and movement the children will build foundation skills in arithmetic, geometry and algebra. 
    The children will: 
    • Show 1-to-1 correspondence as part of counting and numeracy skills 0-9 
    • Understand and demonstrate concepts of more and less 
    • Demonstrate understanding of sets and ordering (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) 
    • Recognize and manipulate basic shapes and discover spatial relationships 
    • Classify and sort by attributes (color, size, shape)
    • Extend and create patterns 
    • Learn by making estimations and graphs 
    • Experiment with measurement (standard and unconventional) 
    • Learn and have fun!
  • Music

    The St. Margaret’s Early School music program strives to nurture a joy of music making in students and to foster an appreciation of natural and found sounds in our students’ environments.  Students are introduced to the rudiments of melody, harmony, and rhythm; central tenements to building a solid foundation in music appreciation and music making.

    Learning Objectives:
    • Learning about call and response patterns
    • Recognition of symbols and how they are used to notate and form melodic patterns
    • Learning about high sounds and low sounds
    • Differentiating between loud sounds and soft sounds
    • Encouraging students to create their own melodies and recognize that melodies can be found anywhere.
    • Listening to different types of melodies from different parts of the world.
    • Helping students to recognize and describe the experience of putting different sounds together.
    • Learning to sing in rounds
    • Encouraging students to experiment with superimposing melodies onto one another and describing the sounds through artwork or physical expression.
    • Listening to how different musical mediums (i.e. brass quartet versus choral singing) present different types of harmonies.
    • Learning to recognize “feeling the beat” in music and what that makes our bodies feel.
    • Having children play in instrument or drum circles to encourage collective improvisation, performance leadership, and artistic confidence.
    • Introduction of basic rhythmic nomenclature: quarter note (ta), half note (ta-ah), eighth notes (ta-ka), and rests (beats of silence).
    • Encouraging students to write their own rhythms using their own musical language.
    • Dancing to different types of rhythms from different parts of the world.
    • Learning different tempo markings; different fast and slow sounds.

    Instructional Methods
    • Direct whole group instruction in our outdoor classroom.
    • Using different instruments to demonstrate different sounds and concepts.
    • Digital, video, and sound presentations
      • Having open discussions with students about digital, video, and sound presentations.
      • Guiding students to develop their own personal, creative tools and vocabulary to share their artistic expression.
    • Encouraging the physical manifestations of what music makes our bodies feel.
    • Encouraging students to embrace the joy of collaborative and collective music making.
    • Making field trips to the St. Margaret’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) and engaging with the varying music and performing arts disciplines (i.e. orchestra, band, choir)
    • Engaging parents in talking about music at home by giving students mini music activities they can do at home with their parents
      • Can you create a cooking dinner with dad playlist?
      • What sound effects or little music jingles can you and mom create while reading your bed time story(ies)?
      • Will your siblings help you and your stuffed animals create a puppet show at home with sound effects and self-composed music?
    • Inviting guest artists and teachers to showcase different mediums of music making.
    • Working towards documenting music learning by putting on a student led performance
      • Performance ideas: puppet show, music concert, musical theatre review, art exhibit of how music makes us feel, dance concerts with different genres of music.
  • Science

    Our Outdoor Classroom provides a rich opportunity for the young scientist. Through time spent in nature (observing and tending plants in our garden, the chickens in the barnyard and insects), activities with earth (sand and dirt), wind and water, watching weather, making bubbles, cooking and watching transformations of matter, the children will: 
    • Learn to be careful observers 
    • Develop the scientific method by making predictions and asking questions 
    • Collect, describe and record information 
    • Recognize cause and effect 
    • Acquire respect for the natural environment 
    • Develop a scientific vocabulary 
    • Learn and have fun!
  • Social & Emotional Development

    Embedded in St. Margaret’s Core Values, children develop social emotional skills through understanding character, community, breadth and balance, high expectations, and equity and inclusion. Kindergarten teachers nation-wide say that self-regulation is critical for early school success. Through building trust, interacting with peers and teachers, engaging in activities and games with their peers, creating scenarios through dramatic play and just by being part of a group, the children will:
    • Learn to separate from family and be happy away from home 
    • Gain independence and confidence 
    • Gain an appropriate attention span in order to: 
      • Choose and follow through on activities they choose
      • Stay with and complete activities the teacher chooses
    • Develop self-control and self-regulation skills
    • Be able to follow 3 simple rules
      • We keep ourselves safe
      • We keep others safe
      • We keep our belongings safe
    • Learn to be part of a group by
      • Understanding the consequences of own behavior
      • Learning to take turns, share and cooperate
      • Expressing feelings
      • Solving problems without adult intervention
    • Learn and have fun!

Early School Program Highlights

  • Credentialed Early Childhood teachers with an average 28 years’ experience in the field.
  • Safe, secure ES campus with a self-contained Outdoor Classroom that includes a garden and barnyard plus motor development and art areas staffed full time by credentialed teachers.
  • First Outdoor Classroom Demonstration Site in Orange County.
  • Small class size with average student to teacher ratio of 6:1.
  • 5-Day schedule.
  • School day: 9 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. (Extended Day available)
  • Sense of community in an early childhood-grade 12 school. Opportunities for participating in all-school events and interacting with students in other divisions.
  • Weekly chapel services in St. Margaret’s Church
  • Visits to the SMES Library for story time in the “big school”
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An Independent Preschool Through Grade 12 College-Preparatory Day School in Orange County California

Non-Discrimination Policy
St. Margaret's Episcopal School does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational, admission, financial aid, hiring and athletic policies or in other school-administered programs.