PrePrep: the Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program
Named after the pioneering co-founder of Sesame Workshop, the Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program provides a distinctive educational experience within a playfully rich and cognitively demanding learning environment.
Launched in the 2014-15 school year as a standalone, co-educational prekindergarten program, PrePrep: the Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program operates within Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School starting in the 2016-17 school year. Joan Ganz Cooney is a founding Kindergarten classroom Namesake for Girls Prep Bronx, and we are happy to bring the program to her Namesake school.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Early Learning Program builds upon the research from the federally-funded Ready to Learn initiative from 2005-2010, which measured the impact of educational programming, including Sesame Street episodes, on children's science and literacy skills by demonstrating the effect of media targeted at socio-emotional development.
See our feature on NPR below:
The Pre-K curriculum fulfills and surpasses the requirements of New York State’s Pre-School Foundations for the Common Core (“PKFCC”). Students benefit from a curriculum that offers the right balance of joyful play, curiosity, and self-control, while also placing equal emphasis on character development (such as resiliency, optimism, determination, and gratitude), college awareness, and cognitive rigor across academic disciplines.
Purpose of Content-rich Material in Preschool:
- increase vocabulary
- enhance background knowledge to promote deeper learning
- accelerate children’s grasp of language and numeracy
- cultivate habits of mind conducive to inquisitive learning and successful social interaction.
Samples of curricular activities:
- Approaches to Learning: Our classrooms use structured and unstructured play in STEM-related exploration; block play; and sorting items by attributes. We also provide opportunities for direct instruction and small group activities to develop early mathematic skills such as number identification, counting, and pattern recognition.
- Physical Development and Health: We focus on “anytime” vs. “sometimes” foods; small and gross motor centers; balance poses; musical statues; and everyday healthy actions.
- Social-Emotional: We use techniques such as songs, freeze dance, and pattern imitation to instill school behaviors such as lining up or moving to the carpet to students; we also incorporate activities like yoga, anger management strategies, and role play with character switches to teach students to understand and regulate their emotions.
- Communications, Language, and Literacy: We teach explicit phonics instruction in both small and whole groups, use storytelling and story boards, read-alouds, reading centers, letter tracing with hands and dance moves, and Sesame Street’s “Letter of the Day” and “Word on the Street” to develop students’ language.
- Knowledge of the World: Our teachers are trained to use of questions such as “How?”; “I wonder,” and “What happens when?” in order to engage students in learning more about the world around them. We explore light, color, solids, liquids, pulleys, ramps, and wheels, living and non-living things, number correspondence, size and space relations, auditory and pattern recognition, design drawing, musical genres and instruments, and community walks.
- Field Trips: We believe experiential learning should be a preschool staple. In addition to our community walks consonant with our themes about community and sensory awareness, students experience: 1) a day-long field trip to an animal rescue farm where children can interact with animals safely, feeding and caring for them; 2) a trip to the Bronx Museum for art workshops under the guidance of the Museum’s Art Education program; and 3) a trip to a children’s theater company or a trip to Lincoln Center’s education program to be introduced to musical instruments and their functions.
- The program included curated content from Sesame Workshop’s vast media library that uses engaging characters to develop critical behaviors like self-regulation. This includes, for example, the new Cookie Monster series of videos that help children learn the behavioral strategies necessary to manage emotions, navigate friendships, cope with stressful situations and improve executive function tasks, such as impulse control, working memory, focusing and shifting attention.
- In its first year, we received support from an executive at Sesame Workshop to identify new ways to use children’s media to enhance learning in the classroom, engage families in creating a rich literacy environment at home, and provide early childhood Professional Development for faculty.