Where can some of Chicago’s youngest students be exposed to French and Spanish, a Juilliard fine arts program and MIT-influenced science lessons all while getting a jump on potty training and an inclusive international education? The answer: British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park’s newly expanded Pre-Nursery education program.
The Lincoln Park school expanded its program late last year with a new space built just for the littlest learners and widened the age range to include for the first time toddlers as young as 15 months. This is all done to give children a soft launch into school in general, but especially to open doors to all that British International School Chicago, Lincoln Park (BISC-LP) offers its older students in its main building across the street, which serves ages 3-11.
Starting children in a school setting early has a host of benefits, says Erin Woodhams, Director of Marketing, Admissions & Communications at BISC-LP. Here she shares why its Pre-Nursery is a great way to jumpstart a child’s education journey.
Customized just for them
The new BISC-LP Pre-Nursery building was custom-built for kids 15 months to young 3-year-olds, including an indoor play space, their own library and facilities scaled to fit their physical abilities and appropriate for their development, Woodhams says.
While the Pre-Nursery program allows students to attend two, three or five days a week, BISC-LP promotes its ability to create a bespoke program for each child — one that grows with them as they move through the ages.
“Planting foundational skills in the early years’ classrooms will benefit them as they move into the older grades,” Woodhams says. In fact, she says, teachers in the upper levels work with teachers in Pre-Nursery to create a holistic, collaborative approach to teaching that keeps the children reaching their potential as they grow. “Giving them a smaller, more nurturing environment doesn’t sacrifice the breadth of the curriculum that we offer as they get into the older grades,” she says.
As the students are introduced to French, Spanish, dance and music, the library, PE and STEAM departments in their own space, they form relationships with the teachers that will carry over into the older years, she says. At the same time, parents get support from teachers in building their child’s independence in areas of self-care, including potty training.
Starting early allows families to plan for what their child’s education might look like in the long term while building relationships with the school, teachers and other families, she says.
“The teachers know your children and your family, they pass it on to the next teacher. But also you know the other children and their family and people really look at us as a long-term program. I think that’s really different when you look at day cares or preschools that stand alone because everyone is going to age out eventually,” she says.
“Parents are committed to engagement in a different way because they see this as a long-term place for them.”
Adding global perspective
BISC-LP, a private school, offers a multicultural, multilingual, inclusive education that uses a global lens for its play-based Pre-Nursery environment. That means good things for young students.
“I think for the little ones, if they grow up in an environment that’s very diverse and inclusive and looks at things from lots of different perspectives, it’s ingrained into who they are. They are accepting, they’re curious, they look at similarities and differences in positive ways, are open to new information, new experiences. I think there’s a lot of value in that,” she says.
Finding a fit
There are many things that go into finding a fit when it comes to an early education program. Cleanliness is a given these days. But it should feel good to parents when they visit.
For the littlest learners, the fit usually is one that feels right to the family. Woodhams suggests that parents look at the style and layout of the classroom, the resources available and not only how the teachers and students interact, particularly if warmth and nurturing is a family goal, but also how the children interact with each other.
Consider how much time they spend in one room. BISC-LP’s indoor play space in the Pre-Nursery building gives kids gross motor skills playtime several times a day, as well as on the playground outside, weather-permitting. In addition, unique to the school, the 3- to 5-year-olds go to different learning spaces in the building for the majority of their special classes.
Finally, consider the vibe, she says. “The feeling that (you) get from the vibe of the classroom is very telling.”
British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park offers in-person school tours with COVID-safety protocols in place. The Pre-Nursery program has a rolling enrollment. Learn more by visiting the school’s website.