Primary Circle (PK/K)
Our Primary Circle is composed of mixed-aged pre-K and kindergarten classes with a rotating two-year curriculum. In Primary Circle, play-based learning and building community are central to the curriculum, and teachers strive to make the environment an extension of home. Students who start in pre-K have the benefit of keeping the same homeroom teacher for both years in the program, but also get to participate in classes with a multitude of teachers — including in our nearly immersive Spanish class and in our Farm+Forest science program, where students venture outdoors three times a week to explore our 600-acre campus. Other features of Primary Circle include:
- Emergent Curriculum: a philosophy of teaching and a way of planning a children’s curriculum that focuses on being responsive to their interests and creating meaningful learning experiences for them;
- Emphasis on creative expression—art and music classes meet several times a week
- Building confidence to develop inter/intrapersonal skills;
- Developing a sense of self that helps students understand their place within the classroom community;
- The study of self, family, and community; and,
- A specialized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/Social-Emotional Learning curriculum
Students must have celebrated their fourth birthday by September 1 and be fully potty trained to be eligible to enroll in Primary Circle.
Exploring Outdoors from the Farm to Forest
The Farm + Forest Program is our outdoor, place-based science program at Westtown for students in pre-K, kindergarten, and 1st grade. Three times a week, students head outside — rain or shine! — to study tree identification, tree life cycles, and their habitat; animal survival tactics in winter; maple sugaring; the life cycles of frogs, insects, and dandelions; pollinators; planting, harvesting, and tasting a spring garden; and so much more. Our young naturalists are invited to explore, discover, question, and to go off the trail and into the creeks! Through these direct experiences of nature, students cultivate curiosity, connection, and a desire to know more. The combination of direct experience, strong observational skills, genuine curiosity, and problem-solving serve as the foundation for future scientific discovery.
Benefits of a Mixed-Age Classroom
Our focus is on the whole child, so how children develop socially is as important as how they develop intellectually. Research has shown that in mixed-age classes, children are often more social, more likely to practice leadership skills, better known by their teachers, and more likely to resolve conflicts peacefully. In Primary Circle, kindergartners model how to care for another classmate and how to resolve conflicts for their pre-K friends. Pre-Kindergartners observe more sophisticated patterns of behavior and learn to collaborate at an earlier age. Kindergartners practice leadership skills while pre-Kindergartners feel the comfort of being cared for.
Our program has every benefit of separated pre-K and k classes, but offers so much more. Our rotating two-year curriculum ensures that material is fresh for all students. It accelerates academic learning while keeping the social curriculum developmentally appropriate. For children in the second year of the program, this means the beginning of the year is not about transition, it’s about hitting the ground running academically. First-year students benefit from having added ‘teachers’ around them; confidence and leadership are modeled for them. Students who have gone through the program often enter first grade at higher reading levels, with more sophisticated handwriting skills, and a better understanding of math concepts.
More than that, however, is what they gain within themselves. The freedom and comfort afforded them in this unique environment fosters self-reliance. Self-reliance is borne out of the seamless structure and support that is given them by teachers who understand developmental milestones. It is the mastery of our teachers that makes Primary Circle exceptional.