Early Childhood Program (Ages 2-5)

Our lively academic program begins when children need it most.

Research on cognitive growth indicates that the early years of a child’s education represent the most critical time for their development. In fact, researchers from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine have found that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons, and is at its most receptive to learning, between birth and three years of age. The earlier a family can invest in their child’s education, the better.

Old Trail takes full advantage of this critical time of growth. Expert teachers in the early childhood division instill academic skills in language arts, math, Spanish and more, nurturing qualities like independence and resilience that will benefit preschoolers as they continue their education.

  • Students start each day with a morning meeting to discuss the date, weather, and their daily schedule.
  • Child-directed committee work and daily classroom conversations empower students to express their ideas and emotions.
  • The “Beautiful Stuff” project allows every child to contribute to a collage of personal items that is shared with the community.
  • Students practice using the latest technology to create photo and video presentations.
  • Children paint, draw, collage, sculpt and sew imaginative works of art in the classroom as well as our unique studio environment to enhance fine motor skills.
  • Naturescape playgrounds host opportunities for students to learn and play in natural environments.

“We view play as an essential part of our curriculum. By playing, children establish and enhance their creativity, social acuity, resilience, problem-solving capabilities and understanding of sequencing and cause and effect.”

— Amanda Irwin, Primary School and ECP Director

We foster healthy growth in all areas.

Teachers in our Early Childhood Program are experts in child development and know how to nurture each child’s healthy social, emotional and intellectual growth. A child’s happiness affects their ability to learn, so we ensure your child learns in a positive, supportive preschool environment. From healthy eating to community outreach, our youngest children begin practicing the habits they’ll carry for life.

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  • Overview and Philosophy

    Our Early Childhood Program supports the whole child and stresses social and emotional learning in an environment that values diversity, intelligence and school success. Play is a key factor in creating strong language and communication ability, critical thinking, problem solving and executive functioning. Through play, children integrate language development as well as all types of learning—physical, social, emotional and intellectual.

    • As your child grows, we place an emphasis on the learning process with a balance of opportunities for small-group, large-group and individual learning experiences.
    • Learning environments balance child-initiated activities and teacher-directed instruction; with guidance from teachers, children explore classroom spaces designed to cultivate self-help skills, problem solving, independence and resilience.
    • Instructional materials and discussions prompt spontaneous and instructive play in the classroom and draw a developmental progression in the content of reading, math, writing, art, science and social studies.
    • Children travel to other classrooms on campus for instruction in physical education, music, Spanish, makerspace and library time.

    Research shows that students will have a love of learning if parents and teachers work together to understand the unique qualities of each child. Together we will discuss your child's strengths and learning styles. Our Early Childhood Program creates a
    parent-school relationship that supports a learning environment for children to develop to their fullest potential.

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  • Distance Learning in ECP

    In our distance learning platform, our goal is to provide consistency and connection for our youngest learners. Every day, our teachers post 15- to 30-minute videos that lead students through activities, such as a class meeting, read aloud, song and literacy or math activity, throughout the day.
    Even as Old Trail students are learning on campus, we know that many families may wish for their child to remain home. Should you prefer to keep your child home, our distance learning dean, Vicki Marty, will work with you and your child to ease the transition, to ensure you feel connected to the Old Trail community and to prioritize your child’s growth—academically, socially and emotionally.


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  • Two-Day Program

    Designed for age-eligible preschoolers who are ready to experience school for the first time without an accompanying parent or caregiver. Our ECP Two-Day Program provides a nurturing setting where children engage in meaningful play activities that support developmental learning and exploration.

    • Children develop life skills and confidence in their own abilities while learning to navigate transitions in a social environment.
    • Program activities include constructive play, creative play, make-believe, gross motor activities, group games and music.
    • Classes meet two mornings each week for two and a half hours. Two sessions are available: Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday, 8:30–11 a.m.
    • To apply for the ECP Two-Day Program, complete an online Admission application, and we will contact you to schedule an observational play date. 
    • A child should turn age 2 by August 31 and does not need to be potty trained to be eligible for this program. 

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  • ECP Curriculum

    Language Arts
    Students are able to clearly and audibly express ideas through daily conversations and reflections while practicing the rules of conversation. They learn how to stay on topic and answer, clarify, elaborate and comment on various ideas and experiences. Through exposure to literacy, students identify character, settings and plot as well as gain comprehension skills. Inside our classroom message center, students draw and write messages to classmates and adults, selecting a personalized stamp to sign all of their work. Students also write and create plays and puppet shows to share with a live audience and make into movies.

    Students practice color and shape identification, counting, sorting and classifying, pattern exploration, measurement and data analysis to build their knowledge of mathematical concepts.  Through hands-on lessons and experimentation, students organize, compare, analyze, draw conclusions and make predictions. They learn to ask good questions and clarify information. With each mathematical lesson, students develop problem solving strategies and verbally communicate their findings.  

    Performing Arts
    Students have the opportunity to participate in many music and performing arts activities. They learn to use their voices expressively to speak, chant and sing. They investigate volume, rhythm, duration, pitch, and texture. They use hand movements and instruments to help them create, understand and respond to music in a variety of forms. Students also gain understanding of spatial awareness through movement and dance.
    Gross Motor Skills & Swimming
    During daily gross motor time students may experience outdoor play, indoor movement education or deliberate skills and games. They gain experience in following directions, learning rules and boundaries, and expanding their physical, mental and social capabilities. With group games, movement and individual skill-building activities, students are given repeated opportunities to be successful and develop gross motor skills. Students in the ECP 5-day program also participate in small group swim education for one trimester.

    Students discover new and exciting aspects of their world with interesting hands-on science activities and experiments. From simple observations—such as fish in an aquarium, or flashlight shadows—to analyzing which objects sink or float, students are able to hypothesize, observe, predict and problem-solve. Students experience a variety of scientific concepts such as weather, animals, plants and the physical world. They are able to explore planting and farming on our school campus. They learn the importance of taking care of the earth by recycling, composting and reducing waste, and talk about the impact these efforts have on their environment. Many lessons center on the National Park and the learning that takes place in our park. 

    Social Studies
    Beginning with the unique characteristics of their classroom community, students discuss the similarities and differences between people starting with the unique characteristics of their own classroom community. Students become familiar with the events and holidays their classmates celebrate. Students practice social skills, gaining an understanding of both personal responsibility and community pride. They also discuss safety skills regarding water, fire, strangers and other dangers. Many discussions at school center around our Core Values of respect, responsibility, goodness and service. 

    In our introductory Spanish courses, students learn basic vocabulary, begin to converse simply and politely, and explore Spanish culture. They learn words to communicate family members, animals, body, food, color, seasons and celebrations. Students play games, dramatize stories, sing songs, dance and use instruments in a variety of interactive vocabulary-building activities.

    Technology is woven into the daily experience of all ECP students through the use of many devices such as iPads and iPods, digital cameras, computers, and SMARTBoards. Students are able to use SMARTBoard technology to interact with applications, play educational games and participate in classroom activities (i.e. morning meeting routines, classroom voting, selecting Worktime), gaining presentation skills while learning to take turns. They learn to communicate ideas through photos and videos that they frame and film themselves. The SeeSaw app is used independently by students to demonstrate learning as a dynamic ePortfolio for parents.  Children also practice basic skills such as logging in and out, mouse skills, keyboarding skills, software applications, web browsing, independent exploration of apps, framing a subject in a picture or video, and communicating via pictures or video.  Using these tools enhances the children’s experiences in literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, research, music, creative and critical thinking. 

    Visual Arts
    Students learn about and express lines, forms, colors, shapes and textures in two- and three-dimensional projects. They experiment with clay and dough, creating sculptures from these and other mediums. They use paint, chalk, pen, marker, colored pencils and nature materials on various surfaces. They cut with scissors and draw, learning and using new vocabulary and concepts as they progress. With frequent opportunity to explore, sketch, build, cut, glue and create, students enhance their imaginations as well as critical thinking skills. Children are provided with daily opportunities to work in the classroom art studio where they are inspired by a variety of materials. 

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  • Young 5’s Curriculum

    Our “Young 5’s” program is designed for children who turn 5 years old during the spring or summer months who can benefit from a year of growth before entering kindergarten.

    Language Arts
    Students strengthen their interest in reading and writing in a nurturing and creative environment. With a classroom library, story time, class discussions and the creation of writing journals, students listen to, learn, evaluate and discuss story components. Students convey thoughts, feelings and experiences through their writing and illustration. Through exposure to poetry, children learn to identify rhythm and rhyme and recite poems in front of the class.    

    Students explore mathematical concepts by creating patterns, sorting, classifying and comparing. They count forward and backward. By drawing, and through interactive lessons, students are introduced to place value, addition and subtraction. They measure and understand length, volume, weight, duration, quantity and mass. Students utilize their recorded data to graph and analyze their results.

    Performing Arts
    Students have the opportunity to participate in many music and performing arts activities. They learn to use their voices expressively to speak, chant and sing. They experiment with sounds and investigate genres, styles, and periods of music across many cultures. Using their voices and bodies, students learn, apply, and enjoy basic musical concepts.

    Physical Education & Swimming
    Students gain experience in following directions, learning rules and boundaries, and expanding their physical, mental and social capabilities. With group games, sports and individual skill-building activities, students are given repeated opportunities to be successful and develop gross motor skills.

    Students begin researching topics through observation, reading, asking experts and online search. They then share results in various creative and digital presentations. Topics of study are child-driven and may include Harvest, Winter, Pond, and Dinosaurs. Students generate their own questions within each topic, then collaborate, draw conclusions and synthesize information to make new connections. By committee, the students decide on projects to pursue. This teaches them to communicate, collaborate, encourage and support the ideas of others, and to fulfill responsibilities within a group. Students gain environmental awareness through recycling, composting and creating “Green Cleaner” that is used to clean surfaces throughout the School.  

    Social Studies
    With topics including Community, Careers, and Post Office, students will generate questions and research the various aspects that they would like to study and explore. They build social skills and awareness by learning the rules and regulations of the classroom and respecting classmates and materials. As part of a classroom community, students discuss the similarities, differences, and unique characteristics of each child and family. They also learn to say “hello” in multiple languages.  To document their understanding of these varied topics, students create memory books and videos.

    In our introductory Spanish Exposure course, students learn and use basic vocabulary and explore Spanish culture through familiar storybooks, songs and short educational videos. They ask and answer questions about family members, animals, body, food, colors and the seasons by sampling a variety of interactive vocabulary-building activities. Classes are designed in short fun segments to train their ear to the sounds and rhythms of the Spanish language. 

    Technology is woven into the daily experience of students through the hands on use of many devices such as iPads and iPods, digital cameras, computers and SMARTBoards. They learn to communicate ideas through photos and videos that they frame and film themselves. Students are able to use SMARTboard technology to project ideas and interact with applications, gaining presentation and leadership skills as they explain their ideas. The SeeSaw app is used independently by students to demonstrate learning as a dynamic ePortfolio for parents. Students in Young 5s have the benefit of one-to-one iPads in the classroom. 

    Visual Arts
    Students travel to the art studio to create and experiment with a wide range of artistic mediums such as paint, clay, colored pencil, chalk and oil pastel as well as unusual items they seek out and find in nature. Students create two- and three-dimensional art, dioramas, drawings and collages. They learn about concepts including lines, forms, color and texture, and explore proportion and space. Students also share, compare and evaluate their work. The class makes a trip to the Akron Art Museum each year. 

Building the foundation for the future

Old Trail School is a private day school for preschool through grade eight students located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.