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The Little Explorers Preschool

In the Little Explorer Program at Cape Fear Academy, children are invited to investigate, plan, and collaborate with a sense of adventure as we provide new challenges and new territory to explore.  This program provides children with just the right combination of nurturing, structure, and independence. Daily experiences provide for maximum cognitive, social, and emotional growth set in a warm and loving environment, 5 days per week from 8:10 AM - 2:45 PM. Well-chosen tools and guided experiences allow children to pose and solve problems, thus being active participants in their own learning process.


Research indicates that early literacy is a strong indicator of later academic success. 100% of Cape Fear Academy's Little Explorers (ages 3-5) are performing above grade in reading fluency with most scoring well above norms. 

Program Director, Bonnie Perchard, attributes this success to balancing short, effective bursts of direct literacy instruction in developmentally-based small groups with spontaneous learning through exploration and discovery. 

Ultimately, early literacy exposure awakens a desire to understand and interact with the written word.This love of learning, enthusiasm, and confidence can be seen in the proud, happy faces of our Little Explorers each day.  

Recently, Cape Fear Academy's Reading Specialist, Kimberly Halle, conducted DIBELS assessments on each Little Explorer.  DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) assesses Initial Sound Fluency (ISF), Letter Naming Fluency (LNF), Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF), Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF), and Oral Reading Fluency (ORF). The impressive results are as follows:

*Spring of 1st grade benchmark represents desired level of mastery for end-of-year 1st graders.


The Little Explorer program encourages children's burgeoning curiosity and promote a love of learning. The programs have been designed to provide scaffolded learning; this means that students are provided with the exact appropriate challenge or support in any given subject at any given time regardless of their numeric age. Using this approach, cognitive development and social growth happen when each student's own developmental readiness is coupled with meaningful concrete experience. Students are given daily opportunities to speak with and in front of others, share ideas and answer questions. These experiences advance students' thought-processes and build confidence.

In a warm, nurturing environment, students are supported as they build the fundamental character traits that will last a lifetime including kindness, respect and good citizenship. They practice taking turns, listening, and participating comfortably in various social settings. They form a community as they share ideas and discuss classroom projects.


This PK3-5 setting gives children a chance to discover, practice and revisit concepts both as novices in their first year in the classroom and as mentors during their second. Younger students are inspired to take intellectual risks as they observe their older classmates. Older students develop confidence as they are challenged to guide and support their younger peers by modeling their thinking skills and actions. Academic skill building is adapted to the needs of the full-range of learners in the class through small group or individual instruction.

In Little Explorers, children ideally spend two years with the same teachers, providing a sense of continuity and predictability that support them in taking academic risks. This allows teachers to get to know students and their families very well. Adapting the curriculum to the needs and interests of each student with attention to individual developmental readiness is greatly enhanced using this two-year process. In time, a close-knit "school family" develops.

The program is structured to allow three, four, and five year olds to enroll for either one or two years depending on age and developmental readiness.  Students are grouped in a variety of configurations to enjoy lesson plans formulated to suit their developmental stage and to provide appropriate challenges.


The Little Explorer program has school hours of 8:10 AM - 2:45 PM with an Early Dismissal option of 12:00 PM. Whenever possible, lessons that introduce new materials and concepts, as well as special classes and trips, are scheduled in the mornings. If you are unsure which option might best suit your child, teachers are happy to meet and discuss the possibilities with you.


The Little Explorer  program is housed in the Primary Building on the main Cape Fear Academy campus. The modern building is situated centrally and is steps from the new Fine Arts Center and Gymnasium. The Lower School building is close by and children have ample opportunities to visit there for lessons in the Media Center, Music Room, Computer Lab, and Think Lab, our amazing technology hub. The Primary Building is also home to two kindergarten classes. It is a safe and happy haven nestled within the larger CFA world.

Classrooms are large and carefully designed for center-based learning. Meeting areas are clearly defined by colorful carpets and are home to the classroom SMART Boards. Meeting rugs are bordered by expansive and user-friendly classroom libraries which house a rotating selection of books reflective of our classroom activities, seasons, and the interests of the children.

Block Areas are expansive enough to allow multiple children to build safely and in large scale. Blocks are stored in an organized fashion that promotes respect for the area and the materials. Since block areas are located in corners of rooms, block structures can, when appropriate, stand and be added to over the course of the week allowing complex building and collaboration.

Dramatic Play areas contain a full selection of play furniture that can be used in varied ways. The table, chairs, sink, refrigerator, oven, and baby bed welcome animated replication of family life. A colorful, life-sized wooden puppet theatre can be transformed into other venues as needed to meet the children's evolving interests and course of study.

Tiled kitchen areas serve multiple purposes. They are the perfect spot for artistic endeavors, science experiments or cooking preparation. Items such as a sand table, water table, and art easel are rotated to allow for a wide variety of projects and experiences. 

The absence of large teacher desks allows more room for other important items. Multiple tables are perfect spots for hands-on work with materials, centers, team projects, and snack. Several large, carpeted areas are available for work with construction toys and math tools. Modern bathrooms are attached to each classroom and shared only with one neighboring class. The Little Explorers enjoy lunch each day at our classroom tables and restful quiet time on cozy cots  before the excitement of afternoon activities. 

Outside the classroom doors is a large central space. It is home to the after school program between the hours of 2:45 and 5:30 PM. Before that time, the space is available as needed for projects and activities. A bright and well-designed kitchen is available daily for cooking projects and more.

The Primary Building classes enjoy the exclusive use of a brand-new play area with a large play-set and toys chosen specifically for the interests, physical skills, and safety of children between the ages of three and six. This play area is conveniently located steps away from our classroom door.