Welcome to Preschool!
Our school is now in its thirteenth year of growth and we have moved to this new location on Charlotte Pike. We continue to combine opportunities in Nature and Studios to engage all learners with our hands-on museum style education within laboratories, gardens, and ateliers.
We are passionate about early childhood education and view the child as a human being with whom we want to travel on a learning journey. Reggio Emilia educators are on a mission to advocate for children’s rights, but do not want to make their approach dogmatic, so we are also free to incorporate elements from other philosophies and curricula as seem appropriate. We too share this drive for advocacy, and think that children are constructivists, capable, and the protagonists of their education. We believe that our role is to listen, ask questions, understand before being understood, challenge, and share ideas and knowledge while we engage as co-researchers exploring 100 languages and developing projects as the negotiated curriculum emerges. We are responsible for setting-up an intentional and flexible environment in which the day will flow. We support relationships, engagement, exploration, asking questions, and motivation to deepen and diversify knowledge.
The morning exploration begins upon greeting and lasts for 3 hours. In this period students visit several ateliers and labs, enjoying the freedom to participate at their own pace and revisit activities. Our assembly is a wonderful time to share ideas, stories, reflection, and planning. It is our time to discuss what we have done and make decisions on our projects.
The environment is organized intentionally to invite and support the emergence and development of ideas and projects. Some rooted projects repeat over the years; such as birthday canvases, cooking, and acorn production estimates. Projects emerge from the interests of the group. In small groups students interact with teachers, atelieristas, and the director to deepen the emergent curriculum.
We study outdoors before or after lunch and often both in small groups or in the large group. At 1:00 we enter Zen Zone. This is the name of our soothing rest period with individual activities or nap.
Our Nature and Studio Preschool is offered for two, three, four, or five days per week.
Our programs are designed for mixed-age groups of children from 2 to 4 years old, and 3 to 5 years of age. We are a small school with a wonderful community.
The transition to school daily takes place between 7:30am and 9:00am. Our first dismissal begins at 3:00 and ends at 3:30. Our second dismissal begins at 5:00 and ends at 5:30.
We operate year round on a quater system. Tuition is due ahead of time for each quater. It is scaled between $3160 per quater for full time, down to $1280 for 2days/week and the first dismissal. Summer quarter enrollment is more flexible to allow variations in attendence for family vacations.
Our two classrooms are home to the Ateliers and Labs.
The Atelier is an art studio rich in materials to be transformed by children. The Biology and Chemistry Lab is host to plants, worms, and arthropods. The PEAS lab isn’t just a block area, but a space to experiment with physics, engineering, and architecture. Loose parts allow creative experimentation and the sharing of stories. The Sound Lab features music and songs, and also the voices of regular objects. In the Office we find the languages of communication and numbers. Can you imagine what you will find in the Ray of Light Atelier, the Moving Atelier, and the Taste Lab? You will discover a myriad of materials, challenges, research opportunities, and relationships.
The importance of Nature
Over the years of teaching and parenting, we have often reflected on the generational changes in childhood experiences with regards to nature. Many of us grew up with unstructured and lengthy time outdoors. Richard Louv’s book The Last Child in the Woods, the No Child Left Inside Act or 2009, and the Forest Kindergarten programs taking shape here and there on several continents have pointed out the importance of maintaining our connections with nature.
At a New Leaf, we have promoted many outdoors activities in our preschool and camps, and now that we have moved to 33 acres with a creek, our commitment to being outside and developing nature education is renewed again! We are developing new paths among trees to find wildlife and balance on fallen trees. We have expended our gardening activities: herbs, flowers, vegetables, sand and rock gardens are now larger and multiplied with the addition of rain barrels and several ways to move the water. We are developing large outdoor classrooms.
Our goals include the development of self-reliance, motivation, and organization in addition to teamwork. We like to develop self-awareness with breathing exercises, active physical routines of walking, running, singing, dancing, yoga, collaborative games, and counting meditation. We follow preschool development standards and adapt them to the outdoors. Our study of the calendar includes closely observing changes in the seasons, weather, temperature, and precipitation. We explore mapping, building shelters, woodworking, sculpting, storytelling, world folk traditions, games, and drama.
Mathematical languages are abundant to explore outdoors. We study plant diversity, their growth cycles, and their uses in the forest. We identify animals and study their calls, their behavior, and their role in the ecosystem. All participants journal everyday to document the learning. Lunch and other group times feature conversations in foreign languages such as American Sign Language, Russian, French, or Japanese.
The benefits we see are a soothing pace of life on nature’s time, self-control and organization, as well as developing a better understanding and a love for all life forms!