The Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center serves the Berkeley Heights School District's preschool through first grade students. Our school is a place where all children are given the opportunity to learn in a safe, nurturing and respectful environment. Children enter our school with a myriad of personal experiences and at many stages of development. We acknowledge, value, and respect these differences by providing a high-quality education that includes a developmentally-appropriate curriculum, knowledgeable educators, and comprehensive services that facilitate learning and social-emotional growth. In attending to the specific needs of young learners, there is a strong focus on literacy development stemming from the belief that it is an integral component of school success. Within that context, there is a firm understanding that success is dependent on creating and maintaining a safe school environment that will promote healthy development of the whole child -- physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Our teaching staff employs strategies that cut across curricular areas and help motivate students including organizing instruction into integrated, thematic units; using cooperative learning and group approaches; recognizing and teaching to multiple intelligences; accommodating individual learning styles; giving students choices about what they learn; stressing thinking skills; offering culturally-responsive curricula, and acknowledging the importance of active teaching.
The comprehensive language arts program includes Readers' and Writers' Workshop, guided reading, shared reading, and word study. Students are provided with additional support, as needed, through the Wilson Fundations program. The Everyday Mathematics program, a concepts-based program, encourages the development of problem-solving and higher-level thinking skills and serves as the primary resource for mathematics instruction. Inquiry-based classroom environments foster direct involvement with science content as we build upon children's natural inquisitiveness and their inherent drive to find out about the world around them. Through the use of integrated, thematic, and inquiry-based science units, students develop a scientific worldview, acquire scientific "habits of mind," build understanding of basic scientific concepts, and develop the physical and intellectual abilities necessary for engaging in scientific inquiry both within and beyond the classroom. During the early years, children begin to understand democratic norms and values in terms of the smaller social entities of the family, classroom, school, and community. Social studies units that explore these topics help our students make connections, integrate knowledge, and relate the lessons of the classroom to their own lives. Formal art, music, health, and physical education instruction begins in kindergarten and are also integral parts of each student's program.
The Early Childhood Center employs both formal and informal assessments as well as performance tasks gathered over time to enhance and improve instructional practices and methodology. Rather than a snapshot of a student's skill development measured by standardized achievement testing once a year, student progress is continually monitored and shared effectively with others to address the developmental and instructional needs of our young students. In planning for student instruction, teachers and administrators consider all of the various experiences a student brings along into the classroom, including chronological age, developmental differences, gender, levels of cognitive function, and diverse economic and cultural backgrounds.
Our faculty is concerned with in-school success, but it is equally concerned with preparation for life-long learning. Our students are taught to use skills of Conscious Discipline. Conscious Discipline is a way of organizing schools and classrooms around the concept of a school family. Each member of the family, both adult and child, learn the skills needed to successfully manage life tasks such as learning, forming relationships, communicating effectively, being sensitive to others' needs, and getting along with others. The skills include composure, empathy, integrity, assertiveness, responsibility, the ability to make good choices, and the ability to see the best in others. Together as a school family we celebrate our accomplishments at monthly Community Celebrations.
The Early Childhood Center is a strong community of learners and through on-going professional development and professional learning communities, the faculty continuously seeks ways to enhance instruction and provide educational experiences that are meaningful and relevant for all students.
Mrs. Anne Corley-Hand