Cougar Prep Preschool
At Clariden, we believe in empowering our students to use their voice. It takes the right atmosphere with the right educators to help students love to learn and to feel empowered throughout their academic career. Our award-winning, project-based learning environment promotes creativity and academic excellence. Students engage in a variety of projects throughout the school year that meet and exceed state standards aligning with TEKS. Projects are supported through content time (Math, Science, English, History, etc.) promoting an application of learning. They are tied to real life issues which allows students to understand the significance of what they are learning. Projects are supported through instruction from mentors, experts, teacher knowledge, field study and, for older elementary students, travel.
Projects bring all our learning together around a common question with a real-world application. Project-based learning also simulates the way problems are solved in the workforce: Through team effort, exploration, testing, and conclusions. Cougar Prep students participate in 3-5 projects per school year. Projects combine research, composition, public speaking and presentation skills. Each project comes with what we call the “Project 411.” This document outlines the goals, methods, lessons, timeline and assessments associated with the project including the following:
- Driving Question — What Are We Looking to Solve?
- Learning Outcomes
- Concepts Introduced
- Technology Introduced
- Field Study
- Work Product / Assessment
The students eagerly anticipate the “big reveal” of each Presentation of Learning (POL). The excitement builds as one grade looks forward to advancing to the next grade level to get to do “that project.” Our projects are so hands-on and engaging that some have even become traditions like the “Mars Rover”, “To the Moon”, “Dinosaur Dig”, and, of course, the “Build a Rollercoaster” for the Happiest Place on Earth project. Whenever possible, parents and students from other grades attend the final presentations and share in the learning and cheering for their fellow Cougars.
Project Example: “Dinosaur Dig”
“Dinosaur Dig” Project: Students explore the inquiry question “Why are dinosaurs extinct?” Science, Math, History, and English concepts are taught and explored as students learn about earth science, rock formation, size and weight, geography and write about their experiments and observations about their selected dinosaur. Students present knowledge gained to a group of experts during their presentation of learning (POL).
Cougar Prep students have daily “Content Time,” as we call it. This time is different than their project time. Content time gives the child focused time on single subjects and concepts like Math, Emergent Reading and Writing, Science and Social Studies. All of our curriculum in these areas meets and exceeds State standards, known as TEKS. Students delve into STEAM works to develop their Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math skills. They learn about civilizations and the customs, laws, and arts that define a society’s contribution to humanity. They study the detailed parts of our language that enable us to communicate effectively through spoken and written words. The main difference in our approach is that our small class sizes enable us to go beyond the standard worksheet. Some lessons are given in group format, while others are given one-on-one with a student. The goal is to meet the child where they are and keep them constantly challenged. In our school, if a student quickly gains mastery of a lesson, they are encouraged to keep going to the next level — there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. When a student needs to stay with a lesson a little longer, we keep them fueled with a variety of ways of looking at the information: From visual, to hands-on, to reviewing face-to-face, because we know children have different learning styles. It is the goal of our Cougar Prep program to foster creativity, innovation and curiosity so that students develop a love of learning. Our program builds upon a child’s innate desire to explore, create and learn. We know that the preschool years are crucial as they set the foundation and tone for all future learning.
We do not teach to the test. The Clariden School is a private school and does not receive State funding. Therefore, our school is not required to take the State standardized tests and we do not build our days and weeks around testing. Instead, we leverage a number of other national assessment tools. We work to keep a relaxed atmosphere around standardized testing so the students learn healthy approaches to assessment. As educators, we understand that children mature through a sequence of predictable stages and that the timing of growth in each developmental domain is unique to each individual child. We also understand that children have both a developmental age (the age the child is functioning at from a maturation perspective) and a chronological age (the age of the child based on their birthday) and that these ages can differ. At The Clariden School, we do not use one assessment tool to determine admissions. We are interested in knowing as much as we can about each student. It is our goal to create learning experiences and environments that promote the overall development of each student. Gesell Assessment Information: The Gesell Developmental Observational Revised (GDO-R) assessment tool determines a child’s developmental age, giving us key information about a student. This information helps us to better understand and provide for students.