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. On-going 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 Childhood 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.)
There is no “math time,” “science time,” or “language time.” 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 7 items.

  • 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!
  • 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

    In addition to the everyday support for social/emotional skills from the teachers, we teach Second Step, Social Skills for Early Childhood©, a pro-social, anti-violence curriculum that teaches empathy, emotional management, problem solving, self-regulation and executive function skills through puppets, songs, role play and picture cards. Developing social/emotional skills is essential work for three, four and five-year-olds. 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 
    • Become competent with feeding, dressing, feeding and cleaning up 
    • 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!
  • Art

    St. Margaret’s ECDC offers creative art experiences for children each day in the classroom with a teacher-selected activity and are always available on the "help yourself shelf". Outside, the Art Room is staffed full-time by an Art Specialist who communicates with classroom teachers to extend classroom learning. The Art Room is available as an option on the playground each day with some choices that are always available (paint, markers, crayons, tape, clay, recyclables, paper, light table) and some rotating activities (including wire, pastels, collage, stamping or seasonal projects). Through opportunities to explore chalk, crayons, markers, pencils, pastels, paint, clay, paper, wire, fabric, yarn, wood and recycled materials inside and outside, the children will: 
    • See themselves as creative individuals 
    • Have confidence in their ideas 
    • Learn to express their ideas in many ways 
    • Express their emotions through art 
    • Learn to use various art tools in appropriate ways 
    • Gain fine motor skills 
    • Practice crossing the mid-line 
    • Be able to work on creative projects alone or in a group 
    • Develop a vocabulary of art materials and techniques 
    • Learn to share materials and clean up after oneself 
    • Learn and have fun!
  • Dramatic Play/Drama

    Our new outdoor stage will be a catalyst for dramatic expression, we’re sure! 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 
    • Learn and have fun!
  • 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. She plans activities 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 
    • Learn and have fun!

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 and only Outdoor Classroom Demonstration Site in Orange County.
  • Children spend half of their day outdoors.
  • Accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children for more than 20 years.
  • Small class size with average student to teacher ratio of 6:1.
  • 3- and 5-Day schedules.
  • School day: 8:10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. (Extended Day available)
  • Nutritious snacks served; children bring their own lunch.
  • 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”
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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