A Closer Look: Early Childhood Education Program of Distinction

Robinson School

The Program

Robinson School’s legacy of firsts begins with the school itself. Founded in 1902, it was the first English-speaking college preparatory school in Puerto Rico. In 1905, Robinson School became the first school in Puerto Rico to offer kindergarten, and today it is the only International Baccalaureate School in San Juan.

The non-profit, independent private school serves a diverse body of 600 students beginning with toddlers through grade 12, 40 percent of whom receive financial aid. The school’s nearly 140 faculty and staff deliver a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes community service and philanthropy and offers an impressive student teacher ratio of 7 to 1.

Within the Early Childhood Education program at Robinson School, families may enroll their children in the Toddler Academic Program between 12 months and 3 years. Students ages 3 to 5 attend Bright Beginnings before advancing to kindergarten.

The early childhood curriculum at Robinson School is based on guidelines of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), with developmentally appropriate hands-on lessons designed to encourage children to explore the world around them.

Faculty and staff in the program recognize that early childhood education forms the social-emotional and intellectual foundation that children will build on for their entire lives. That is why young learners are encouraged to take risks, ask questions and communicate openly with their classmates and teachers.

The Process

Robinson School faculty and staff have long been dedicated to continuous growth and improvement. The decision to pursue the Program of Distinction was an extension of this ethos. It was also seen as an opportunity to work as a team to achieve an important milestone.

The Toddler Academic Program curriculum promotes inquiry, knowledge and caring in children. It starts by introducing young children to the school environment where they can learn about and establish healthy behaviors. Teachers use reading to convey information, and rely on literature in delivering lessons. Students can act on what they learn through related sensory and physical exercises, problem-solving games, songs, rhymes and storytelling.

Within the older cohort of students enrolled in Bright Beginnings, teachers help learners refine their social adeptness, develop tools for self-expression, feed their curiosity, and become more emotionally mature and independent.

Kindergartners begin their academic careers learning early reading and writing in both English and Spanish. Students also begin the formal study of math, and are challenged to learn independently through center-based activities that encourage inquiry.

As often as possible, teachers weave lessons across disciplines. For example, a teacher might introduce the theme of time and place. Students are prompted to think about their classroom community and their role as an individual within that community. The discussion is then broadened to incorporate the neighborhood, including the people and businesses they rely on. From there, basic geography is introduced, transportation and other systems. Tactile, hands-on activities help illustrate the topics for students.

Another key feature of the program is to connect students with each other and the broader school community. High school students are invited to become volunteer mentors for younger children. They take part in activities as a pair, sometimes sitting together at pep rallies or attending school ceremonies. Upper elementary and middle school teachers are asked to adapt science lessons for the early childhood community, and even came together to create a maker space for young learners. Families also participate, including grandparents who are invited to read to students and parents who might be asked to contribute to a potluck meal for the class.

Classrooms are designed to be bright and cheery, and are outfitted with 21st century technology, educational games and hands-on materials that motivate students to learn and explore.  Each classroom has a patio, and there are two playground areas, green space, and an edible garden, where students are introduced to health and science.

Teachers take a holistic approach, focusing on the education of the whole child, including their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. Their goal is to instill a sense of self and self-worth in all students that will help them find their place in the world today and in the future.

Lessons Learned

  • A school community should always be undergoing a continual process of evolution and growth. Applying for the Program of Distinction helped to support Robinson School’s culture of continuous improvement.
  • It is easy to operate from an internal perspective, focused entirely on your own school community. However, it is equally as important to evaluate the broader educational landscape. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other schools to ask what approaches are working for them and which aren’t.
  • Independent schools have a duty to help each other become better institutions. Take opportunities to connect with other educators. This can be done in a formal setting, such as at a conference, or casually, by meeting individually with your counterpart at another school to share ideas. These relationships can be mutually beneficial.
  • Encourage teachers to pursue professional development opportunities. Their experience will help the entire school community develop best practices and understand emerging trends in education.

Program of Distinction Benefits

  • Earning the Program of Distinction in Early Childhood Education can be motivating from the entire school. Staff and faculty may start thinking about what other programs can do to be eligible to apply for a Program of Distinction.
  • Applying for and earning a Program of Distinction is a ready-made opportunity to grow and evolve, and to bring your team together to work toward a common goal.
  • Like traditional MSA-CESS accreditation, the Program of Distinction appeals to prospective families who are considering enrolling their children at Robinson School. It serves as evidence of the school’s commitment to excellence.

Robinson School

5 Calle Nairn
San Juan, PR 00907
Contact Name: Mrs. Cindy Ogg
Contact Phone: 787.999.4600
Contact E-Mail: cogg@robinsonschool.net