Tynaya Quickley knows young minds — and teaching. Years of experience as an early childhood educator had prepared her for a new career challenge this school year: launching the inaugural pre-kindergarten class at The Bryn Mawr School.
What she hadn’t counted on was launching a new program in the midst of a pandemic. While COVID has certainly presented obstacles for how students engage in the classroom, it’s also helped the school focus on what PreK learning should look like.
“COVID really gave us an opportunity to think about what was important in the classroom space,” said Tynaya. “We were challenged to think about the essential elements of a PreK program and focus on what we really needed — a bright, warm and engaging classroom where girls are excited to begin their first school experience.”
Bryn Mawr has a four-year-old program as part of its Little School; but the new all-girls PreK class is part of its Lower School. Students wear uniforms, participate in special area classes, and fully take part in the Lower School experience. “This is where our students begin to discover their voices, gain confidence and learn really important and foundational social and academic skills,” said Lower School Director Laurie Vennes.
As you might expect, the PreK girls at Bryn Mawr are an energetic bunch. They have physical education every day, music three times per week, and world languages four times per week. The class of eight (seven on-campus and one virtual student) also take part in outdoor education once per week exploring the trails and nature around Bryn Mawr’s 27-acre wooded campus.
“On our nature walks, every girl is a scientist, an explorer, a discoverer,” Laurie said. “Girls’ schools are known for graduating a disproportionate number of young women interested in pursuing STEM-related degrees and really, it all starts here.”
Since reopening on campus in August, Tynaya has seamlessly integrated many beloved PreK experiences while adhering to COVID safety guidelines. While parents might not be able to volunteer in the classroom, every student’s parent has had the opportunity to participate as a “mystery reader,” reading a book via Zoom. It’s been a wonderful class community builder. Even the assistant teacher’s parents volunteered to read to the class!
And while learning might look a little different than when Tynaya was first imagining her classroom, it’s still very much hands-on — in spite of COVID regulations. Recently, her students examined the concept of gravity. Rather than explain with charts in the classroom, Tynaya took the girls outside to experiment with droppers and water colors. The girls made art while learning about how gravity pulls things to the ground. Then they explored campus (and gravity) by dropping eggs in various locations.
“It’s different, but the same,” explains Tynaya, when asked about teaching this year. “When you’re doing something that you love and that you’re passionate about, you get creative.”
“Our goal has been to give the girls as ‘normal’ a PreK experience as possible,” said Laurie. “And in truth, providing the girls with a happy, energetic, and safe introduction to school is one of the best gifts we can give them during this tumultuous time.”
Bryn Mawr is still accepting applications for our 2021-22 pre-kindergarten class. Find out more here.
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 Bryn Mawr School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Want to become a school partner? Email us.