For over 70 years, Ardmore Baptist Preschool has served children throughout Forsyth County. Currently, 80 children are enrolled, ranging from three months to five years old with a student/teacher ratio designed for individualized attention. Julie Sugg, Preschool Director, shared that the school’s teaching philosophy is based on a Reggio-inspired model.
“Ardmore Baptist Preschool is one of the few in the area utilizing this approach,” said Julie. “In Reggio Emilia preschools, each child is viewed as capable, creative, and intelligent. The job of the teacher is to support these qualities and to challenge students in appropriate ways.”
The Reggio Emilia approach begins with the idea that children use many different ways to express their understanding, thoughts, and creativity. These different ways of thinking, exploring, and learning are expressed through different creative mediums, such as drawing, sculpting, painting, music, and drama. Classrooms are set up by age, with a separate art studio and a dedicated teacher.
Students at Ardmore Baptist Preschool are focused on learning projects, which gives them the opportunity to be researchers. Julie explained, “These projects include real-life problem-solving techniques with their class, as well as opportunities for creative thinking and exploration. A project begins with our teachers observing and questioning our kids about their topic of interest. Then questions, materials and opportunities are provided for the children to explore.”
Julie continued, “Through our Reggio Emilia philosophy, our teachers watch, observe, and listen to what our children are interested in. Then, they provide additional tools related to that topic to enhance their development.” The children work together collaboratively and learn how to work as a team. Julie offered several examples, including a worm study prompted by the children’s discovery of worms living under stumps. “The discovery triggered questions about how they lived, what they did, and launched one of their projects in the classroom. It was a learning experience for everyone in the group!”
When you step into a classroom at Ardmore Baptist Preschool, it feels like home. Great attention is given to the environment and what it offers the children. There is natural light pouring in through the large windows and soft light from lamps.
Julie stated that each room is stocked with organic materials and “loose parts” to inspire creativity. “A sensory box with twigs, straw, dirt, pinecones, and other textures can become a den for an animal or a place to play, depending on the imagination of the children,” remarked Julie. “Rocks with numbers painted on them can be a means for building a wall or organizing a sequence of numbers. Another class may use letters written on wooden disks for stacking or making a word—a child’s imagination is limitless. Loose parts can become whatever a child envisions and open the door to creative thinking.” There is a strong emphasis on using natural materials that can be used in more than one way that also encourages an interest in the world and exploration.
“We believe children need to be given the opportunity to learn through play,” emphasized Julie. “It’s a student-led and teacher-framed environment. Children learn through hands-on experiences.”
Teachers document learning via a portfolio for each student, which includes pictures, comments from the child, as well as the teacher, so that parents see what their child is working on. The hallways are a showcase of various art projects and group activities.
As with most preschools, Ardmore Baptist Preschool’s calendar closely lines up with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school calendar. Registration for the upcoming school year began in February. For the 2018-19 school year, classes will begin on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 (the day after Labor Day); the school year ends on Friday, May 31st, 2019 (the Friday after Memorial Day). School hours are from 9:00 am to noon, with an optional “lunch bunch” (noon to 1:00 pm).
Lunch bunch is available for children aged one to five years old. They share a meal during the lunch bunch hour and have social/play time as a group.
“We use the North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development as the framework within our program,” related Julie. “When children leave our program they are independent, have a strong sense of self, and are great problem solvers. Our Preschool is not a place to prepare you for life, but is seen as a place of life.”
For additional information, to arrange a tour, registration, or for any other questions, contact Julie Sugg, Preschool Director. Her phone number is 336.725.3530, or you can e-mail [email protected]. Be sure to visit their website (ardmorebaptist.org). You may also follow them on their Facebook page.
The model originated after World War II in Reggio Emilia, Italy with the intent of rebuilding the social/economic structures while acknowledging the capabilities of children to learn, develop social skills, and work together. Ardmore’s approach centers around three key components: 1) love for Jesus, 2) kindness and compassion for others, and 3) developmentally appropriate experiences in a rich environment. A tour of Ardmore Baptist Preschool is a worthy investment of time, and attests to their unique approach.