Welcome to Preschool!
Our school is now in its twelfth year of growth. We are excited to have added this year a Nature Preschool Program to our Studio Preschool Program while we continue to develop and 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.
Studio Preschool Program
In the Studio Program, the flow of the day begins outdoors with physical games, creative arts, gardening, and cooking until we gather for assembly around 9:00am. Our assembly is a wonderful time to share ideas, stories, reflection, and planning. It is followed by two hours of exploration where students visit several ateliers and labs, enjoying the freedom to participate at their own pace and revisit activities.
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.
At 12:00 we eat lunch, and talk about our food and life in French. At 12:30 we enter Zen Zone. This is the name of our soothing rest period with individual activities or nap. The first dismissal is at 2:30.
The Forest and Studio Programs merge after the first dismissal at 2:30. Between 2:30 and 5:30 students participate in a combination of artistic, musical, and environmental studies. Students may dismiss at any time during that period.
Our Nature and Studio Preschool Programs are 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 and amazing student to adult ratio of 4 to 1.
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 monthly variations in attendence.
Our Main Areas
In all areas of our school, we pay careful attention to the details of the environment to support relationships, engagement in exploration, asking questions, and motivation to deepen and diversify knowledge.
Foyer or Piazza
The entryway is a busy space, just the way the Italians like it. It is the best place for greeting, exchanging mail in the Communication Hub, and social activities such as dance, drama, puppetry, yoga stories, musical and sound exploration. This is also where we record our study of the weather, and can find our market. The market is the stage for selling and buying goods, negotiating, sorting, organizing, number sense, and economics.
The classroom is 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.
In the Moving Atelier you will find a rotation of experiences, hence the name. At times we use this space for our chefs' lab. At other times, it becomes the Ray of Light Atelier, the Game Lab, the Office, the Library, and the resting side of Zen Zone. Often times, the room is completely transformed to accommodate the needs of a particular project, to stage a play, or to create a sensorial landscape to explore.
The Nature Program
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 we will continue to do so for all programs, but it is now time for us to take the next step and go deeper into our commitment to being outside. We are located on 8 acres of nature, the potential is there for us to embrace and develop. The highlight of our space outdoors is the paths among trees and bushes where we find small and large traces of wildlife. We also nurture several small gardens: herbs, flowers, vegetables, sand and rock gardens. In addition to a playground, we have a picnic area, and a gazebo as an Atelier for messy art projects and outdoor studies.
We are very excited to embark on this adventure with many families who are committed to an outdoors experience. Students will spend time in all areas of the land: the woods, as well as the playground, gardens, blacktop, and outdoors atelier. If the weather becomes too difficult or dangerous, the group will move indoors, otherwise the children will be able to spend a whole day outside.
Appropriate clothing and footwear will be very important in the warm weeks of the fall and cold weeks of winter. The preparation for living outdoors will become an integral part of the curriculum. Parents, teachers, and children will negotiate the curriculum in the Reggio way. It will emerge with the additional influence of the natural environment, and necessary organization to thrive in all weather conditions if possible. As a group, all stakeholders will make decisions. Moving indoors will always be an option.
Our goals include the development of self-reliance, motivation, and organization in addition to teamwork. We plan to develop self-awareness with breathing exercises, active physical routines of walking, running, singing, dancing, yoga, collaborative games, and counting meditation. We will continue to follow preschool development standards and adapt them to the outdoors. We plan to study the origin and evolution of signaling, communication, language, writing, and music. We will study the calendar by observing changes in the seasons, weather, temperature, and precipitation. We will explore mapping, building shelters, woodworking and sculpting, storytelling, world folk traditions, games, and drama.
Mathematical languages are abundant to explore outdoors. It will be interesting to see how new projects similar to our project of estimating acorn production may emerge. We will study plant diversity, their growth cycles, and their uses in the forest. We plan to grow, harvest, and prepare foods. We will identify animals and study their calls, their behavior, and their role in the ecosystem. All participants will journal everyday to document the learning. Lunch will feature conversations in foreign languages such as American Sign Language, Russian, French, or Japanese.
The benefits we foresee are a soothing pace of life on nature’s time, self-control and organization, as well as developing a better understanding and appreciation of the environment. Nature’s protection and sustainable use will take concrete forms when we make a compostable toilet and use biodegradable soap for hand washing and laundry. We predict an increase in focused and collaborative work, and a decrease in sicknesses.
We have two teachers per program, and the atelierista and the director work with both Forest and Studio students in large and small groups to extend their artistic expressions, thinking, and problem solving. Our adult to child ratio is 1 to 4.
The director interacts with faculty and students to expend the ideas of the projects, to meet in small groups with students, to support interactions, creativity and innovation, and to coordinate the documentation of both programs. We have a wonderful team of educators and collaborators!