Our Curriculum

The Pembroke Hill early childhood school curriculum is based on the constructivist theory, which believes children construct knowledge through interactions with people, experiences and materials. Our curriculum addresses all areas of development for students in early years, preschool and prekindergarten including social-emotional, physical, language and cognitive development as well as the content areas of literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts.

We understand that children learn best with a developmentally appropriate integrated approach. At Pembroke Hill we teach through the context of play, routines, activities, and projects; with a keystone of our curriculum being the warm and responsive relationships which are essential to learning. The ongoing, thorough, authentic assessment ensures that each child is being challenged and supported as a learner.

Environment - The Third Teacher

The Reggio Emilia approach has a saying, “the environment is the third teacher.” The Pembroke Hill early childhood school has embraced this belief through thoughtful planning. All materials, routines and activities in each classroom have been purposefully selected to provide opportunities for children to grow, learn and develop. An important part of the environment is the daily schedule. Our teachers design a schedule that recognizes the rhythm of the students. They carefully balance large group and small group activities, inside and outside time, as well as child-led and teacher-led activities. Our aesthetically pleasing classrooms feature many natural materials, children’s work and words, as well as soft lighting and music.

Each day, Pembroke Hill early childhood students enjoy at least 30 minutes of outside time. The beautiful campus includes not only three early childhood playgrounds but also fountains, sidewalks, sports fields, open spaces and small groves of trees. There are many opportunities for children to climb, run, explore, discover, throw, jump, hide and investigate while playing with classmates or individually.

While we have ample natural spaces for exploration on our own campus, classes often venture off campus to explore the local community, as well. They travel to the gardens and lake at Loose Park, the Plaza, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kauffman Legacy Garden.


Assessment is an important component of teaching; it informs our instruction, interactions and the materials selected for the classroom. At Pembroke Hill, teachers are continually gathering observations about skill level, knowledge, interests, strengths and areas to support. These observations are used to plan the environment, interactions and activities that will support the continued development and learning of each and every student.

Teachers use Teaching Strategies GOLD Child Assessment Portfolio to monitor nine areas of development and learning, measuring the knowledge, skills and behaviors that are most predictive of school success. Thirty specific objectives are monitored on each student. These include four major areas of child development: social-emotional, physical, language, and cognitive and the content areas of literacy and mathematics.

Family conferences are scheduled twice each year to share a child’s assessment and portfolio. Assessments and portfolios follow a child throughout his/her years in the early childhood school, creating a full and detailed picture on learning and development.

Learning Through Play

At Pembroke Hill Early childhood school, we understand the importance of play to a child’s development. Research has revealed that quality play enriches cognitive growth and supports the development of problem-solving skills. Language and social skills are learned and reinforced through play. There is a positive correlation between play and creativity. Quality play builds the skills and foundation for a life of learning and academic success.

We know children are learning while playing at Pembroke Hill because:

  • Materials have been selected to scaffold learning, providing challenge without frustration.
  • Classrooms have been thoughtfully arranged to encourage focused and cooperative play.
  • Every classroom has a variety of learning centers, including dramatic play, block, art, science, book, manipulatives and sensory to provide children with full range of experiences.
  • Uninterrupted playtime is scheduled into each and every day.
  • Children make free choices during play time and therefore are intrinsically motivated to play and learn.
  • Teachers are engaged with children throughout play time; teachers support play by modeling, facilitating group play and problem solving.
  • Teachers support play by asking questions and scaffolding learning.
  • Teachers observe children closely during play to monitor growth and then use these observations to extend children’s learning.

The Project Approach

A project is a child led in-depth investigation of a topic. Each project is a three phased investigation focused on finding answers to questions about the topic through first-hand experiences. These questions are posed either by the children, the teacher or the teacher working with the children. Our project approach is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, which encourages young children and their teachers to explore, question and discover in a stimulating environment.

Projects support the development of many positive learning dispositions including attending and engaging, persistence, solving of problems, curiosity, motivation, flexibility and inventiveness in thinking. Our teachers carefully plan project experiences to include opportunities to develop skills in the areas of language, literacy, math, science, large motor, small motor and art.

In addition, project investigations provide a context in which children take initiative, assume responsibility, make decisions and choices and pursue interests. In essence, a project’s ultimate goal is to teach a child about how to learn.

What Does A Project Look Like

In general, there are three phases to an investigation:

Phase 1: The Planning Phase

Teachers begin the process by observing the class closely to identify common interests or common questions about a specific topic. They may ask families to share their observations as well. Pembroke Hill teachers then plan several activities to further assess interest. Once a topic is settled on, teachers evaluate what children know and begin to list their questions about the topic. Teachers work with the children to create “project webs” that serve as a plan for the project. Family meetings may be set up as a time for teachers and families to collaborate in the planning of the project. Together, they may create a second web or list of possible field trips, experts, resources, questions and materials.

Phase 2: The Investigation

A project begins by researching the answer to one of the children’s questions on the web. This may include a field trip or asking an expert to visit. The teachers help the children prepare for the experience by having them create a list of items to look for or questions to ask. Older children may take time to create observational drawings at the field site. The children bring their observations and observational drawings back to the class. These drawings, in addition to photographs and videos of the experience, and records of conversations, are used for reflection and further study. Throughout the project, the classroom environment is transformed by the artifacts, materials and representations related to the topic. The project investigation continues as children search for the answers to all of their questions. Frequently, more questions arise as more is learned.

Phase 3: The Culminating Experience

The project draws to a close as all the questions are answered or the topic is thoroughly investigated. The culminating experience is the children’s opportunity to celebrate their new knowledge and their joy of learning with others. The culminating experience takes many forms. Recent experiences have included an early years book project, which culminated with the creation of a book from class-made paper; a preschool restaurant project that culminated with a breakfast restaurant run by the children; and a prekindergarten study of bees that culminated with the children creating detailed ceramic bees as gifts for their families.

Two young boys play with blocks on a lighted table
A young girl in a pink dress sits at an easel on a paper heart painting