iIs age 5 is too young to explore art history or learn about leadership? We don’t think so! In Danielle McIntyre’s kindergarten class at Aspengrove, students are introduced to historical artists, guided to explore various tools for self-expression, and even have the opportunity to lead school assemblies.
“Children from a young age are encouraged to be thinkers and inquirers,” McIntyre says. “Every child learns in a different way, and our job is to make learning accessible to that child.”
Our Teaching Style
Aspengrove is an IB school, which means we offer the International Baccalaureate Program. Only 94 schools in Canada offer the IB Primary Years Program (PYP), which is designed to nurture caring and active learners aged 3-12 years.
The IB program is inquiry-based, so students explore topics across a variety of modalities. “In the kindergarten program we have six transdisciplinary themes and spend five to six weeks on each unit,” McIntyre says. “We don’t teach on themes like apples in September. We blend language and math and science into units of inquiry. We meet the BC Ministry of Education curriculum, and then go beyond.”
One example of a transdisciplinary theme is self-expression. “A unit of inquiry would be how we use creativity to express ourselves,” McIntyre says. “Key concepts would be form and perspective. So we explore the great artists of the world. We do a tinfoil painting of Van Gogh’s Starry Nights. We also have independent inquiry time with clay, string, and other materials. We’re setting the students up to delve into them themselves.”
This inquiry style of learning appealed to Kelly Williams, whose son Alex is a kindergartner at Aspengrove. “We liked the idea of the IB program and how it will focus on a topic, such as animals, for example, and through that the students learn math, sciences, reading, and art, as opposed to learning math or science independently.”
Williams’ son started at Aspengrove in junior kindergarten at age 3, and quickly discovered how much he enjoyed public speaking. “He loves speaking in front of hundreds of people, and the teachers encourage it,” Williams says. “He asked if he could speak at the school assembly and they told him he could if he made an outline. They encourage the kids to grow and really support their passions.”
A Different Kind of School
Unlike most schools, which have monthly assemblies, Aspengrove holds an assembly every week. It’s part of the way we build our school community, and it also helps build up student skills sets. “Each grade takes a turn hosting the assembly,” McIntyre says. “They showcase what they’re learning and pieces of work they’re proud of. They also learn public speaking, as well as sitting and being respectful.”
It’s this applied learning that brought Williams and her family to Aspengrove, but she says there are many other reasons they love the school. “We love the passion the teachers have,” she says. “Every teacher who teaches there not only wants to be there, but loves to be there.”
Williams also appreciates the outdoor exploration time, made possible by Aspengrove’s 40 acres of land. “The teachers try to be outside with the kids as much as possible. They go hiking in the woods. They look at forces like wind and water, or how the trees are growing. My guy is obsessed with owls so the teacher researched to learn everything she could to answer his questions.”
A Welcoming Community
McIntyre agrees that passion — and a strong sense of community — are defining factors at Aspengrove. “A lot of the classrooms feel like you can live in them,” she says. “Up and down the hallways, it’s the same thing; it’s a true sense of community. The children are nice kids — being sensible and caring are two of our attributes. We care for each other, we care about the rules, and that makes our community, safer, stronger, and more fun. It’s a very close school. Everybody knows all the children.”
And it’s not just the teachers who espouse that community feeling. Older Aspengrove students take the younger ones under their wing, and help them to adjust when they’re new to the school. “When my little guy walks through the grade 5-10 lounge, he high-fives the kids,” Williams says. “He knows everyone there and feels comfortable, no matter their age. Everyone is encouraged to interact.”
Come for a Visit
If you’re looking for the right kindergarten for your child, come and check us out. We hold open houses regularly; follow us on Facebook for announcements about upcoming opportunities to visit the school. You’ll have a chance to meet Danielle McIntyre, ask questions, and tour her classroom and the rest of the school. We look forward to meeting you!