St. Mark's Preschool is located on the property of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, a bucolic 12-acre campus just to the north of downtown New Canaan on scenic Oenoke Ridge. The expansive facilities of St. Mark's Preschool allow children to play, learn and explore in a variety of environments, whether indoors or out.
Flooded with natural light and fresh air, our classrooms are designed to provide stimulation and further exploration of a particular theme or idea being presented. Artwork and projects from the children make up the majority of the room decor. As the year progresses, children recognize and know the purpose of each piece of work or picture displayed. The room is arranged to allow children to move freely among a variety of activity centers.
The dramatic play area allows children to role-play real life situations or characters from storylines. Children practice language and social skills while they interact with others in an informal situation. Their creativity emerges as they use toys and props in an imaginative way! Self expression and problem-solving are important aspects of dramatic play.
Art & Painting
Engaging in art and craft activities provides children a medium of expression and enables them to experience sensory pleasure by working with a variety of media; experiment with color, shape, and texture, and use art as a means of communication and expression of self and creativity. Children also develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination as they create. What matters is the process of art, not the product!
Building and creating with blocks is a great way for children to engage in creative play and to learn basic math and science principles such as counting, shape recognition, and understanding stability and balance. Playing with blocks allows children to express themselves and to socially interact with one another. The block area is another part of the room where a child can strengthen their problem-solving skills, as well as use their imagination.
Puzzles and small blocks allow children to identify relationships between objects as well as teach children to problem solve and reason. While working with small manipulatives, children gain an understanding of the basic concepts of math such as classifying, categorizing, sequencing and creating patterns and shapes. Manipulatives also strengthens fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, along with language development, as children verbally describe the activity they are doing.
Indoor Play Areas
Children have the opportunity throughout the year to take part in cooking activities that involve measuring and counting. Our kitchen was designed with children in mind, with lower counters and sinks for little hands to roll dough, decorate baked creations and wash dishes.
Stocked with titles appropriate for the preschool age, the recently established Lending Library is home to story time with Mrs Spitz on a weekly basis for children in the 4s program. During library time the children are also encouraged to choose a book to borrow to take home to read with a family member.
Chapel, held once a week, is a vital and much-loved part of the SMP experience. The St. Mark’s Chapel can be found in the corner of the main church. It is a quiet nook where the children can begin to experience the awe of being in church. Children enter chapel quietly as music is played and sit in a circle with their teachers. A story is shared and children are encouraged to participate, sometimes with the use of props or by learning a new song. When the story portion of Chapel is over, the children will have a short moment to “meditate” on what has been shared.
Our cozy library provides the setting for our weekly enrichment activities of music and science. The children also gather in the library for many of our fun “extra” activities, such as visits from Critter Caravan and performances by Danny Magic.
Outdoor Play Areas
Completely new in 2013 and graciously donated by Miley and Andrew Peake in honor of their son James Deering Peake, the main SMP playground is a safe and exciting environment for children to test their physical ability, exercise their imagination and explore nature. Within the playground, children are free to climb various play structures, ride a tricycle on the bike path, dig for treasure in our sandboxes or play a game of tag on the grass. Outdoor play is a daily and important part of the St. Mark’s Preschool experience. Outdoor play refines a child’s gross-motor (large-muscle) skills. The cross-lateral movement (right arm/left leg and vice versa) stimulates brain development. Playground time is also an opportunity to explore and manipulate a different environment. They learn to move in manners that will keep their bodies safe and protected. Children also love outdoor play because they can let loose their imagination while getting physical. They can turn the jungle gym into a rocket ship, a castle, a firehouse, anything they choose!
The Great Lawn
An expansive green, the Great Lawn offers nearly unlimited space for children to allow their bodies and their imaginations to run free. Family picnics, sing-alongs, and leaf stomping are just some of the SMP activities that take place here
The Court Yard
The Court Yard at St. Mark’s is a cozy, shaded spot of grass surrounded by idyllic stone walls; a perfect spot for an impromptu outdoor circle time!
In the Fall and Spring seasons, children have the opportunity to visit St. Mark’s Gospel Garden. SMP works closely with the overseer of the garden to organize fun and educational excursions for our preschool. Through various garden activities, our preschoolers learn about healthy eating, the change of seasons, and how plants grow. In addition, they have the opportunity to be part of a community wide effort of service.