Primary School Signature Programs
Reggio-Inspired Approach to Learning
To live and work in our rapidly changing world, children must learn to ask questions, think critically, solve problems, and work with others. Our Primary School program—modeled after the early education programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy—teaches these skills through child-initiated projects requiring teamwork and problem-solving. The Reggio approach fosters in-depth inquiry and shared responsibility for learning between the child, teacher, and peers.
The Primary School’s Reggio-inspired and project-based approach encompasses several key components:
Children are seen as competent, resourceful, curious, imaginative, inventive, and possessing a desire to interact and communicate with others. All children have potential, construct their own learning, and are capable.
Teachers are seen as researchers who listen, observe, and document children’s work and growth. Teachers are learning alongside the children. Serving as facilitators, they plan and provide learning opportunities, stimulate thinking, and encourage collaboration.
Environment is the third teacher. The design and organization of learning spaces provide the immediate background for the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development of the child. Our Primary School supports a stimulating environment in which a student can maximize his or her potential in each of the four domains of development: cognitive, social-emotional, spiritual, and physical.
Emergent curriculum builds upon the interests of the children. Projects emerge and are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests. The student experiences learning through play and interaction.
Our emergent curriculum is based upon the questions and interests of the students within the class. Teachers observe preschoolers engaged in conversation and play; from these observations emerge projects that often span several weeks to several months. Students’ interests vary from class to class and from year to year. Project topics are discovered as students explore, experiment, and engage in daily activities. Teachers ask questions to inspire thinking, provide materials and experiences that generate more questions, and assist in student research. The benefits of project work include focused and active learning, collaboration and communication rich in dialogue, and meaningful student-centered study that serves as a hallmark of the St. Francis Primary School.
Rice Early Literacy
Our Reggio-inspired curriculum isn’t our only stepping stone to future success in the classrooms of St. Francis’s Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. Our thriving collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture program is another. This pupil-centered, best-practice method positions teachers as “story takers” who carefully record students’ thoughts, words, and ideas, which are then acted out by classmates. Teacher-student interaction helps our educators hone in on specific literacy skills, including print concepts, letter recognition, word decoding, vocabulary, and punctuation—all of which meshes seamlessly with the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop methodology of Lower School. Another aspect of the program is the importance of dramatic play, which enhances learning through a focus on the listening, speaking, and reasoning components of literacy.