Gift of Time
Gift of Time (GOT), or Junior Kindergarten, is a bridge between preschool and kindergarten that provides children with an extra year of growth before starting kindergarten. This transitional class offers a developmentally appropriate program designed especially to enhance academic readiness skills, improve motor skills, encourage good work habits, and model acceptable social behavior needed for success in elementary school. GOT blends elements of a preschool environment with those of kindergarten classrooms. Students enjoy centers and additional recess time on the playground. They also use much of the kindergarten curriculum to promote literacy skills. GOT students study a variety of science related topics. These classes include Music and Movement, Chapel, Outdoor Explore, STEAM activities.
Play and Children
The importance of play for all of our students is a priority at St. Thomas. All students have extended periods of unstructured play. Our playground for students aged 3 and up is one of the best in north central San Antonio. We have athletic fields and garden spaces for children to enjoy and explore. We have many opportunities for climbing, swinging, balancing, riding tricycles and little cars, pretending, running, playing music, and interacting with friends close in age from other classrooms.
Outdoor learning experiences look like play to the casual observer. But in the 40-45 minutes of play time for our preschoolers, much learning is taking place. Communication skills including questioning, clarifying, and learning point of view are happening all around. Research has indicated that “peer talk” is critical for later learning, especially when it comes to questioning, cooperating, and collaborating. Children learn to express their feelings as they learn about the feelings of others. Creating imaginative, dramatic play allows students to act out their lives, share the dreams, and “try out” roles such as super heroes, mommies, daddies, and the like.
The outdoor learning experiences of interacting with natural environments, not rubber padded mats, provides the opportunity to learn about acorns, rocks, building with sticks, sorting with stones, and sifting through sand. The natural sunlight filters through the mature oak trees as children enjoy the protection of the sun in a nature-rich play area.
The small playground for the 2 year olds allows them a more protected environment for climbing, throwing balls, walking the balance beam, and playing in the sensory table. Opportunities for dramatic play abound with tricycles, little ride-in cars, a toy kitchen, and the playhouse. They enjoy learning to throw and catch balls, play with toy cars, and write on the giant chalkboard. Again, students appreciate the joy of finding a gecko, planting an acorn or watching a squirrel jump from tree to tree.
Many children have little opportunity to experience nature. Many preschools have moved towards a synthetic outdoor environment that deprives young children of the joy of nature and the sensations of scooping up leaves and watching them dance to the earth.
Because unstructured playtime is important, even our older children have 30 minutes to run and play with their friends. The music garden, tetherball, climbing equipment, gaga-ball court, and picnic tables on the playground provide choices for our students to enjoy and explore. It affords them time to relax and take a break from their studies so that they can do their best at school each day.