Early Years Programme

Elmwood's Newly Expanded Programme

At Elmwood, we have long been dedicated to providing a top-quality Early Years Programme, offering a holistic, International Baccalaureate education for even our youngest learners. How- ever, the 2018/2019 school year brought forth a series of exciting changes, as we proudly launched a newly expanded, fully licensed Pre-Kindergarten programme last fall. This means that our Pre-K class, which has been operating on a smaller scale since 2017, is now officially recognized as a licensed preschool by the Ontario Ministry of Education. As a result of this change, we can now accommodate a greater number of students, while still maintaining the high level of quality and expertise that families have come to expect from Elmwood. Christine Blackadar, Deputy Head of Elmwood’s Junior School, helped spearhead this recent transformation. “We went through an exciting and thorough process to become Ontario licensed,” she says. “We have been delighted to establish a licensed Pre-Kindergarten program to include three-year-olds.”

A key component of the licensing process was the hiring of two new Early Childhood Educators, Ms. Stephanie Dore and Ms. Carole Hawley, who Ms. Blackadar describes as being “well versed in ensuring that the important developmental needs of our youngest students are met.” These talented educators joined the team last fall and have spent the year since establishing a thoughtful and engaging program for our young learners. Their hiring also allows us to maintain a low student to teacher ratio in our Pre-K class, resulting in a safe and stimulating environment for all children.

By joining Elmwood in Pre-K, students will now be able to benefit from the full range of the IB continuum, beginning with the Primary Years Programme. The PYP curriculum, which is rooted in the principle of agency, allows students to take control of their own learning. They are encouraged to inquire, question, wonder and theorize about themselves, others and the world around them, while also developing essential socio-emotional, physical and cognitive skills. It is extremely important that students develop these skills early on, as the first five years of a child’s life are some of the most formative for brain development.

As Senior Kindergarten teacher Kate Meadow- croft notes, “This is a child’s first introduction into the world of education. It’s imperative that this is a positive experience, since it will affect their view towards school for the rest of their lives.” Students who enroll in Elmwood’s Early Years Programme are therefore at a clear advantage, developing more of the skills they need to succeed in life—from problem-solving and collaboration to confidence and self-esteem—all from the comfort of a caring and dedicated learning environment.

Ms. Meadowcroft believes that what sets Elmwood apart from other Early Years programmes in the city is the fact that we follow both Ministry and International Baccalaureate guidelines. Under the IB, there is a major focus on inquiry-based learning, which encourages investigation, exploration and curiosity. The result is an educational program that is largely student-led, allowing children to ask big questions and search for answers. She also says that younger students can benefit from the cohesive nature of the program, as children as young as Pre-K start to learn the terminology of the IB Learner Profile. “Every teacher from the very beginning of the educational journey will use that same language -- of what it means to be balanced, to be a risk-taker, to be caring, “ she says. “Students really benefit from the consistency of that approach.”

In addition to the classroom environment, Ms. Meadowcroft says Elmwood’s focus on outdoor play is incredibly beneficial, especially in the Early Years. From Pre-K to SK, students spend a portion of every day outdoors -- rain or shine. “We place the utmost value on children being outside,” says Ms. Meadowcroft. “Our students are being inquiring, they’re being curious, they’re exploring the world. It’s giving them more opportunities to feel connected to nature and to the environment.”

There is also growing evidence that suggests an increase in outdoor play can have a positive impact on children’s eyesight. As Ms. Meadowcroft notes, “We are seeing a rise in myopia [or nearsightedness], and children are having to wear glasses earlier in order to see far distances.” Many doctors believe this could be the result of children spending too much time indoors, as they do not have the opportunity to focus on objects in the distance. Elmwood’s commitment to spending time outdoors, every day, is therefore another key benefit of the Early Years Programme.

But what really distinguishes Elmwood’s Early Years Programme is its sense of community. As Ms. Hawley notes, students “develop a strong sense of belonging—among their classmates, the school, and the Elmwood community at large.” This is accomplished through a myriad of school-wide activities— such as House Spirit Days, the Big Sisters Club, and the annual Holiday Concert—which bring together students of all ages and help to foster lifelong, multigrade friendships. Our Early Years students are able to look up to these older girls, who regularly model positive aspects of the Learner Profile as they help lead initiatives throughout the school.

It has been wonderful to see the Early Years Programme adapt and change over the last year, and we are thrilled that this new licensing has allowed us to welcome even more students to our Pre-K programme. At Elmwood, we remain committed to providing an exceptional IB education for students of all ages -- and this expansion is just one of the many ways we are continuing to pursue our mission of inspiring each girl to reach her full potential.

If you would like to learn more about Early Years education at Elmwood, please visit elmwood.ca/academics/early-years.

To inquire about admissions or to submit an application, visit elmwood.ca/admissions.