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Learning Through Play

Educational Philosophy And Curriculum


Circle Time

At ANS, it is our philosophy that young children learn best through play in a secure and happy environment that has been carefully structured to encourage all aspects of child development, including growth in language, cognition, social/emotional, fine motor, gross motor and self-help skills.  This learning is addressed every day in a number of ways:  during one or two large group teacher-directed “circle” times which include math and science activities, literature, music and movement, and social learning; in adult-directed small group activities which might focus on fine motor and art activities; in the playroom where gross motor and social/emotional learning occurs; and in the learning centers as described below.  Classroom activities and choices within the centers are organized by themes based on general topics of interest such as seasons, holidays, community, animals, food, and transportation.  A typical day at ANS includes self-guided play, center time, arts, large group or circle time, music and movement activities, snack, and a trip to our stimulating indoor playroom or outdoor playground.


Learning In The Learning Centers

Sensory Table

In the Art Center, children learn

  • to express ideas in new and creative ways (social/emotional)
  • concepts of size, shape, location (cognitive – math)
  • control of a variety of tools (fine and gross motor)
  • to discuss their creations (cognitive – language)

In the Block Center, children learn

  • to cooperate with others and to solve problems (social/emotional and cognitive – language)
  • concepts of balance and gravity (cognitive – science)
  • to create structures and repeat patterns (social/emotional and cognitive – math)

In the Dramatic Play Center, children learn

  • to be flexible in their thinking and carry out ideas cooperatively (social/emotional)
  • to express themselves in sentences (cognitive – language)
  • to experiment with different adult roles (cognitive and social-emotional)
  • to sort and organize (cognitive – math)

In the Math & Manipulative Centers, children learn

  • concepts of classifying, patterning, groups and sets, logical reasoning, numbers sense (cognitive)
  • hand-eye coordination and control of small pieces with fingers (fine motor)
  • to take turns in games and share materials (social/emotional)

In the Science & Sensory Centers, children learn

  • new vocabulary and concepts of comparison, texture, color, weight, size, characteristics (cognitive)
  • to appreciate nature (social/emotional)
  • hand-eye coordination and sensory stimulation as sensory items are manipulated (fine motor)
  • cooperative learning and joy in discovery (social/emotional)

In the Reading or Library Center, children learn

  • to express ideas with language and retell familiar stories (cognitive)
  • to appreciate the richness of illustration and to construct meaning from it (social/emotional and cognitive)
  • to gain information from books – factual as well as imaginative and cultural (cognitive)
  • to use imagination to create their own stories and to take on the role of someone else (social/emotional)

In the Writing Center, children learn

  • concept of communication through writing and drawing (cognitive)
  • how to control and use a pencil appropriately (fine motor)
  • to write some letters, such as those in their names (fine motor and cognitive)


Our preschool curriculum is enhanced by music class one day per week for each class.  Our on-staff music teacher offers developmentally appropriate musical experiences involving singing, rhythm and beat, listening, movement and dance, music from many cultures and genres, and playing instruments.


Science Discovery Cart

ANS is proud to have introduced a preschool science curriculum through the use of our Science Discovery Cart which has changing themes such as Nature, Shapes and Measurement Concepts, Our Bodies, and Animals. A dozen or more “hands-on” activities are offered for each theme and are rotated between classrooms.  Science objectives are also addressed in the classes through calendar and weather activities, small and large group discovery, use of tools, reading of non-fiction literature, etc.


Special Programs

llama llamaA large number of special activities are planned including field trips for four year olds and special visitors for all ages. Farm animals, firefighters, dental hygienists, storytellers, sea creatures, pets and musicians are just a few! Mother Goose makes a visit and so does Amos Stamp, our musical guest from the Post Office.  Special school-wide activities include our Thanksgiving Feasts, Music Festivals, Gingerbread House Decoration, Winter Concerts, School Picnics, End of Year Programs.  Holidays are celebrated in the classrooms based on the unique make up of each class.


Age-Level Objectives And Skills

Through the study of NYS standards, our teachers’ experience and expertise, our relationship with the Amherst Central Schools, and our voluntary registration with the NYS Department of Education, ANS educators have compiled a list of skills which drive the planning of curriculum and help in assessing the growth of our students.  This extensive and detailed list is broken down into language skills, cognitive skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social/emotional skills and self-help skills.  Each age level has a complete set of skills which builds on previous learning.