A New Pre-K 1 Learning Space Takes Shape

When Pre-K teacher Tracy Keith illuminates the light table in the center of Shore’s new learning space for very young pre-kindergarten students, children instinctively move toward the enticing warm glow. Discovering the properties of mix-and-match colors and materials on the lighted surface, these four-year-old investigators resemble their older elementary and middle school peers—perhaps gathered around one of the school’s Harkness discussion tables, or arrayed alongside a workbench in the school’s Innovation Lab.

That similarity, Keith says, is quite deliberate. “The vision for Pre-K 1,” she explains, “is to bring kids into the Shore community as early as possible, getting them comfortable right away with Shore’s model of children exploring and learning together—a concept that runs from the first day of Pre-K to the last day of Grade 9.”

The school’s expanded Pre-K program encompasses two years: Pre-K 1 for children who are four years old or younger; and Pre-K 2 for children who are ready for Shore’s existing Pre-K offering. Families may choose either a full- or half-day schedule for Pre-K 1, with both options priced to compete with traditional preschools and nursery schools. Whether they choose a full or half day, families will find in Pre-K 1 the same blend of academic focus, creative opportunity, and personal engagement and growth for which the school is renowned. And, their child will be guaranteed a spot in Shore’s in-demand Pre-K 2 program and beyond.

Sara Knox, Head of Lower School, explains that Shore’s newest program is based on a child-centered philosophy of early education first developed in the village of Reggio Emilia, Italy. “The Reggio Emilia approach recognizes the instinctive curiosity and wonder a child brings into the classroom,” she says, “and has the teacher take a step back to allow the child to manage the learning process. In a Reggio Emilia-style classroom, children work hands-on with a variety of materials, come up with their own questions, and invent the plan for getting answers to those questions.” The learning space is open and airy, “literally allowing room for new ideas,” observes Knox. Year-round, the experience extends out-of-doors, into a dedicated new outdoor classroom that’s full of possibilities.

But, Knox explains, “In large measure, the value of our program for four-year-olds is not just in the stellar curriculum or the custom-designed spaces; it’s in the expansive group of caring adults and older children looking out for their well-being, and building relationships that may last for years. For our Pre-K 1 students, the advantage in having two full years getting to know the campus, the community, and the culture is tremendous—they enter Kindergarten with such confidence; they’re often the ones who are quicker to read and grasp bigger concepts. The experience lays the groundwork for their entire Shore career.”

Those observations certainly ring true for one South Hamilton family, the Tessicinis, who were among the first to enroll in Shore’s early Pre-K 1 offering three years ago. Elia Tessicini, reflecting on her daughter Alessandra’s experience, attests, “The biggest thing we saw over Alessandra’s two years in Pre-K was how much she began to love school, to be able to fearlessly explore any subject that she was interested in. Shore does such a good job at fostering that natural curiosity.”

The Tessicinis discovered Shore when Alessandra was not yet four. “We had considered all the independent schools in the area, and felt strongly that Shore was the right fit in the long run. But at the time, Alessandra was just too young for the existing Pre-K program, and we were going to have to change schools twice—once for her first year of pre-K, and then a second time moving to Shore.” However, switching schools was something the family desperately wanted to avoid: Elia’s late husband, Mark, at that time was very sick with ALS, and they were doing everything they could to protect Alessandra from additional upheaval.

Fortunately, when Shore’s Admissions office and Pre-K teaching team heard the family’s story, they were in the ideal position to help. Tracy Keith and her longtime colleague, veteran Pre-K teacher Beth White, had for years envisioned a Pre-K program that could serve younger children.

“The Tessicinis’ unique situation was a real catalyst,” recounts White. “Over the past few years we’ve invested a great deal in developing ways to individualize our instruction with younger learners, and when we met Alessandra we knew we were ready. We saw a chance not only to support this particular family, but also to roll out a rich and academically structured program to other families with young children who were ready for us.”

Being “the right child at the right time,” as Elia Tessicini puts it, couldn’t have worked out better for Alessandra. “Socially and emotionally, Shore gave us a great support system, getting her settled and confident while we as a family went through a very difficult time.” But, she explains, the benefits would be the same for anyone. “If you’re a working parent like I am,” she says, “you’re going to pay for care at that age one way or another. And if you’re committed to the quality and value of education that Shore offers, and you do the math, then it’s a no brainer: what better place to prepare for Shore than Shore?”

    • Tracy Keith with Pre-K students in the new space

    • Keith and Beth White in the existing Pre-K classroom

    • Elia and Alessandra Tessicini

    • An example of an outdoor classroom design similar to what's being planned at Shore

Shore Country Day School

545 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915
(978) 927-1700
Shore Country Day School’s mission is to provide an education that inspires a love of learning and encourages children to embrace academic challenge. We seek to build character, cultivate creativity, and value diversity as we help our children become healthy, compassionate citizens of the world.
The School admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, or any other status protected by applicable law, and extends to them all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. The School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, or any other status protected by applicable law in the administration of its admissions, scholarships, and loans, and its educational, athletic, and other programs.