Academics

Early Childhood

Premier Preschool and Kindergarten in Indianapolis

Our nationally recognized Early Childhood program includes Multiage Preschool & Kindergarten classrooms. Both programs have two highly-qualified lead teachers, as well as rotations with specialist teachers including music, science and Spanish. These two programs rely heavily on nature as the third teacher, sometimes spending over two straight hours engaged in our outdoor learning spaces. Orchard's 43-acre wooded campus provides many opportunities for moments of nature as teacher.

Multiage Preschool & Kindergarten offer a unique opportunity for families to support their children in a critical period of academic and social-emotional development. While developmental milestones are most often listed in a linear format, the rate and sequence that each child meets those benchmarks can be different. Multiage Preschool & Kindergarten classrooms tap into these differences and use them to enhance a child’s learning experience. Small group learning and peer groups remain flexible based on each child’s developmental path, not on their chronological age. At Orchard, our Early Childhood program leverages the benefits of a Multiage Preschool & Kindergarten environment alongside the best practices of Progressive education. It’s that combination that creates a truly unique experience for each child and family that is part of our community.


Early Childhood Highlights

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • Multiage Preschool


    At the heart of our Multiage Preschool program is an emergent curriculum - a pedagogy that allows our two lead teachers per classroom to collaborate with children around their ideas, questions, development, and topics of interest. It is a continuous cycle that requires teachers to observe children and to listen closely for their ideas. Observation and listening are followed by the teacher's thoughtful response, which builds on what the children are doing and thinking. To do this well, Orchard’s Multiage Preschool teachers create Invitations for Learnings to help welcome children and provide them with the materials necessary to inspire their innate and extraordinary curiosity.

    An invitation to learn is a display of materials, carefully selected and arranged, that draws children’s attention and engages them in a world of wonder, exploration, and discovery. The invitation to learn is purposefully and intentionally designed with curriculum outcomes in mind. As the children interact with the invitation, the educator observes and documents the children’s interests, thinking, and learning. The children’s questions and interests can become the focus for an inquiry.

    Quick overview of elements explored in the Multiage Preschool classroom:

    Math and Science - Students will learn to recognize and copies patterns such as sequences of sounds, shapes, color (e.g. ABAB or AAB) with guidance. They'll make simple concrete graphs reflecting opinions and events with guidance. Students will use many different tools to help gather information. Asking questions based on their discoveries will lead to new explorations and experiments.

    Reading and Writing - Language patterns are learned and strengthened through reading and reciting texts with rhyme and rhythm. The ability to segment and blend phonemes facilitates spelling and decoding for our young learners. This goes hand in hand in terms of preschoolers beginning to write. Students learn that writers plan by thinking about who they are writing for and what they want to tell that person. They also know that writers know how to spell many words because they know that sounds make letters.

    Spanish - Preschoolers learn other languages enables an individual to participate in multilingual communities. They also learn that the purpose of language study is to communicate so we can understand others and they can understand us. Orchard students will learn basic Spanish greetings and emotions, colors, numbers (1-10), size, parts of the body, and family and culture.

    Music and Art - Students will travel to Mrs. McSpadden's room for music class. Throughout the year, students will learn how to keep a steady beat, discover various instruments, explore vocal range, and reinforce metals, shakers, and skins. Art is encouraged and integrated into larger classroom projects on a daily basis by the teachers.

    The Importance of Play - Children venture outside to explore, discover, investigate and play! While children are always supervised, they are allowed to explore our spacious 43-acre wooded campus and let their creativity lead the way! Gross and fine motor skills are developed. Undirected play helps children learn to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve misunderstandings and learn self-advocacy skills.

    Physcial Education - PE is one of the places where gross motor skills and coordination are developed. Gym is especially fun when it's pajama day, and running throughout our 43-acre wooded campus makes for interesting exploration. Healthy, active kids become healthy, active adults.

    Our Multiage Preschool classrooms are structured to enhance the preschool experience by creating a child-centered, emergent curriculum with full exposure to hands-on experiential learning. There are four classrooms with a mix of three through five-year-old students. If a child is three-years-old by August 31st, they will spend two years in this program. If a child is four-years-old by August 31st, they will spend one year in the program. 

    We offer two options for the Multiage Preschool program:
    • 5-Day Full Day (8 AM until 3:20 PM)
    • 3-Day Full Day (8 AM until 3:20 PM)
    Before care begins at 7:00 AM and after care runs from 3:20 - 6:00 PM.


  • Multiage Preschool: Sample Schedule


    7:50am
    : Classroom door opens
    8:05am: Morning work / centers
    8:30am: Morning meeting 
    8:45am - 10:55am: Explorations & Adventures (includes snack*, project work, small groups, free-choice, outdoor adventures, etc.) 
    11:00am-12:45pm: Specials / LUNCH** 
     
    1:00pm: Rest time 
    2:00pm: Recess / Small Groups
    3:00pm: Snack & Closing Meeting
    3:20: Dismissal
    
    Specials Schedule
    Mondays: PE and Music (whole groups)
    Tuesdays: No Specials: Open Doors/Adventure Day
    Wednesdays: Science and Spanish (half groups)
    Thursdays: Music and Science (half groups)
    Fridays: Library and PE (whole group)

    *Orchard is a peanut/tree nut-free school! We serve 2 snacks a day and a hot lunch. If your child has any sort of food allergies or sensitivities, please let us know. Please make arrangements with us before sending or bringing in food from home to accommodate allergies.
     
  • Kindergarten


    Kindergarteners focus on who they are and what makes them special. They discover how they learn by spending lots of time outdoors exploring and using nature as a teacher. Every class is taught by two lead teachers, allowing more time for small group and one-on-one instruction. Kindergarteners experience more academic challenges inside the context of play-based learning. Children focus on themes in math, literacy, science, Spanish and music while growing in their social development.

    Quick overview of elements explored in the Kindergarten classroom:

    Bridges MathBridges in Mathematics is a comprehensive kindergarten through fifth grade curriculum that equips teachers to fully implement the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in a manner that is rigorous, coherent, engaging and accessible to all learners.

    Writer's WorkshopStudents are guided through a wide variety of writing lessons which include formal instruction, one-on-one teacher conferencing, group lessons and guided writing communities.

    Literacy A significant and exciting aspect of kindergarten literacy is the exploration of the relationship between oral language and written language as children develop an increasing awareness of the constructs of writing and foundational skills for reading.

    Math/Science Kindergarten provides direct learning opportunities and math lessons involving mathematical thinking and problem solving. Scientific investigation including inquiry, physical and earth sciences and the process of investigation are stressed.

    Language/Literacy While developing skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing, students learn to construct meaning, make connections to their own lives and gradually begin to critically analyze and interpret what they hear, observe and read.

    It's very common at Orchard to see all of these subjects being explored throughout our 43-acre wooded campus. 

    Children need to be five-years-old by August 31st to start the kindergarten program. Kindergarten is a 5-Day full day program. Before care begins at 7:00 AM and after care runs from 3:20 - 6:00 PM.

  • Early Childhood Curriculum Map

    From Director of Early Childhood and Elementary School Director, Hal Schwartz: What you will see on the webpage today is a snapshot of our EC and ES academic program. Since learning is a dynamic and fluid process, this document is also intended to be dynamic and fluid. What we value most about progressive education is that teachers have the freedom and flexibility to adapt their instruction to the needs and passions of their students, and this document has been written with the value of responsive teaching in mind.

    Click here to start your journey through the EC and ES curriculum map!
  • Diversity and Identity


    The Orchard School is an inclusive community deliberately rich with diversity. We strive to maintain a safe and welcoming environment that encourages courageous conversations about differences in beliefs, identities and perspectives.

    One of our diversity goals is to help all members of the community overcome a sense of “otherness” and reserve judgment when encountering something unfamiliar and new. Therefore, Orchard teaches about race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, family structures, physical differences, political and social values, culture, religion, abilities and learning styles in a developmentally appropriate manner that leads to appreciation and understanding of the variety of human experiences.

    A healthy sense of identity at a young age helps students to understand and feel good about themselves and others. It also helps them celebrate and not fear what makes each person different and unique.
  • Communication with Parents


    Parent communication is an important part of creating a connection that supports a play-based and developmentally appropriate practice. When teachers and parents listen and reflect together about a child’s strengths and goals, it allows learning to be authentic and reflect a child’s entire experience. We know that unique learning also happens outside of school, that’s why communicating with families is a priority to help complete a portrait of each student at Orchard.

    Multiage Preschool and Kindergarten use an app called SeeSaw to keep parents updated, sometimes in real time, on their child's learning experience. Parents are able to "like" and comment on benchmark updates, receive immediate notifications, as well as download any pictures from the app. SeeSaw provides a unique opportunity for parents to be partners during key learning moments, while making it easier to discuss daily happenings with their child.
  • Feature Articles

    Orchard Kindergarten Teachers Use Fairy Tales To Enhance Academics


    Click here to read more and scroll through the photos explaining how writing/literacy, science, engineering/mathematics, technology, and art are integrated into this impressive project.


    Orchard Preschool Students Debut Meaningful Identity Work After Year-Long Study


    Click here to read how the study of identity is a major focus in all preschool classrooms at The Orchard School. Teachers believe that by having these important discussions about identity at such an early age, children will discover the true meaning of diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe this progressive education tenet is the key to make the world a better place.
  • Feature Videos

    Orchard Preschool Students Create Powerful Identity Wall




    Director of Early Childhood and Elementary School Hal Schwartz explains the approach for our young learners in Multiage Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary School




    Experience The Best In Progressive Education

Visits & Tours

OPEN HOUSE DATES:

November 22nd at 8:30am. RSVP!

January 17th at 8:30am. RSVP!

Daily personalized tours are available by appointment through the year. We will be happy to schedule a tour at a convenient time for you. Please contact Receptionist Majella Scheer at mscheer@orchard.org  or call 317-251-9253. 

For the safety of our students, please bring your driver's license with you in order to check in and tour the campus. Tours last approximately one hour. We look forward to seeing you!