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Kindergartners get sense of community

Most parents enroll their children in kindergarten hoping that the child will learn their numbers, their letters and how not to eat paste. At The Children’s School in La Jolla, they get all that and much, much more.

You’ve probably passed by the school right off of Torrey Pines Road many times and never given it a second thought. But inside, students are learning in a way that is both fun and educational.

According to The Children’s School pamphlet, “The elementary program at The Children’s School is unique from every other program in the San Diego area.”

The school offers a distinctive approach to education that engages students in the learning process through real-life, hands-on activities, group projects and the investigation of subjects from different angles.

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The social studies program at The Children’s School is especially hands-on. In a community awareness project called A Study of Avenida de la Playa, kindergartners learn about the world and their role as a citizen in it by exploring their own neighborhoods.

The community awareness project takes place over a six-to-eight-week period of the school year. One of the kindergarten teachers, Lisa Jardin, has been at The Children’s School for four of the six years that the students have been doing the project and says that each year the students and the community get more into it.

“The children come into kindergarten with an egocentric focus, and through this project, they are able to become more aware and understanding of the world around them,” Jardin said. “The children take away an understanding of how important it is to contribute to a community. They learn that all of the businesses are there to help the community succeed and that all of the ‘workers’ are there to help. The children begin to understand the importance of jobs and why we have them.”

This year, the classes have been learning about La Jolla businesses with the help of local establishments, including Hotel La Jolla, Starbucks, La Jolla Market, Barbarella Restaurant, La Jolla Kayak, Surf Diva and the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

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At a recent field trip to The La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, kindergartners planted plants with the landscaper, cooked pizza with the chef, learned how to fold towels and even took a golf lesson.

“At the beginning of the study, children will often say that people have jobs to make money for food” Jardin said. “At the end of the study, they will often say that people have jobs to help people.”

The project also focuses on how to be a good member of the community. Children learn how they can help their community by doing beach clean ups and throwing away and recycling litter found on their trips.

“The children feel a strong connection to their community and are suddenly ‘experts’ about the businesses and are able to teach their classmates, friends and families about what they have learned. The children also get to interact with adults in their community and learn how to ask questions politely and respectfully,” Jardin said.

The parents, who joined on the field trip, expressed how much they like that the children are getting a hands-on look at the world around them. “I am so happy to see that the children are exposed to real-life situations that will prepare them socially as they get older,” Tricia Estrada said.