Anyone who has ever spent time in Baltimore knows the amount of charm, culture, and adventure that can be found in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood. The Wilkes School at Grace and St. Peter’s, set right in the heart of Mt. Vernon on Park Avenue, prides itself on fostering learning outside of its four walls — taking advantage of everything their surrounding neighborhood has to offer.
But expanding the classroom walls into the cityscape is only one of the school’s benefits. They include before and after care in tuition pricing. And parents like the “smalltimore” feel when they walk through the front doors.
“One of the things I love most is the small size of the Wilkes School,” said Lily Romero, a Wilkes School parent. “It’s intimate and family-like — all the children know each other and they know all the staff. It creates a space where smaller children are comfortable playing with older children, and older children (I think) tend to look out for younger children.”
Recently, Wilkes School, which goes up through 5th grade, expanded their Pre-K program to include 2-year-olds. We sat down with their Preschool Director, Robin Mellen, to learn more about life in the city, and how they involve their littlest learners.
Can you describe the program philosophy, and give us an example of a typical day in the life of a preschooler at Wilkes?
We aim to promote the social-emotional growth of the children, to prepare them for future educational endeavors, and to tune into their individual strengths and needs. Our curriculum is based on the developmental milestones for 2, 3, 4-year-olds and aligns with the Maryland State standards. We are able to adjust the program to fit the needs of each child while still maintaining the integrity of the program.
You recently expanded your preschool to include 2-year-olds. What does a typical day look like for your littlest learners?
A typical day for our preschoolers has a balance of teacher-lead and independent activities. We teach Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies, as well as all of the specialty areas. Our children experience hands-on activities, with an emphasis on literature and language. Our activities are based on the developmental needs of the children and can and do fluctuate between groups of children to ensure everyone is finding success. Our youngest learners follow the same pattern of learning only at a slower pace.
Wilkes School has always been known for its diverse student population and engagement with the community surrounding the school. How do you incorporate your preschoolers in your out-of-the-classroom adventures?
We utilize any and all community activities available to us. We regularly walk to the Pratt library, take trips to the Walters Art Museum, work with the MICA students on how young children learn to draw, attend the symphony, and participate in the many festivals in the park. Even our littlest learners get to experience the world outside of the classroom!
What do you PERSONALLY love about the preschool at Wilkes?
As an educator I love that I have the freedom to embrace the children at the developmental levels they arrive at and can grow with them as they experience their first school activities and grow with the community.
To learn more about Wilkes School and all that the have to offer, visit them at wilkesschool.org.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we will spotlight one of our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about The Wilkes School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Want to become a school partner? Email us.