Philosophy and Curriculum
Families Together Cooperative Nursery School offers children and their parents an outstanding early school experience. Our programs for ages 2.5 to 5 years are play-based and our emergent curriculum offers children a nurturing and stimulating classroom experience. The emergent curriculum is facilitated by teachers who structure the environment but not the process of play.
The teaching philosophy, inspired by the theories of John Dewey, Erik Erickson, Lev Vygotsky, and Jean Piaget, is based upon constructivist principles of education. In practice, this means that the classroom is set up to be an active and engaging environment in which children can experiment with their ideas by interacting with the classroom materials, as well as other children and adults in the classroom. The teachers support each child in finding and expressing their own individual interests, while also helping children find effective and appropriate ways of interacting with others.
A peek into our open classroom reveals children engaged in an array of activities. During a typical day in our classroom, you might see children constructing roads in sand, reading in the book corner, baking or dressing up in the imaginative play area, creating books at the writing center, building with blocks and other manipulative materials, painting at the easel, working on a puzzle, or exploring the world around them at the science center. In addition, a variety of process-oriented materials are set out daily to promote creativity and tactile learning. The arrangement of the classroom and materials promotes children's interactions through the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to listen and share together.
The staff at Families Together value outdoor and large motor experiences for young children and make time for such activities daily. These experiences may include playing at the park across the street, going on a walk around the neighborhood, visiting a nearby community garden or having time to run and play in the large gym facility within our building.
In a play-based program such as ours, you are unlikely to see teachers giving rote instruction on concepts such as letters, numbers, shapes, or colors. Instead, you will likely observe how these subject matters integrate into the daily activities and routines in the classroom, reflecting the Co-Op's philosophy that children learn best through relevant, meaningful and concrete experiences.
For example, young children experiment with science and math concepts in the block area, at the water and sand table, and in the art area. Through their activities in these areas of the classroom, students explore ideas of color, mass, volume, weight and measure. Children are supported in these endeavors by having adults present who are willing to sit down with them as they play, listen to their ideas, and have conversations with them that extend their comprehension of how the world works.
Another important aspect of education in the early years is literacy skill development. Teachers in our program encourage a child's emerging curiosity about reading and writing by setting aside a special space in the classroom, stocked with a wide array of writing materials to explore and use creatively. The staff works continually to infuse the entire classroom environment with print, thereby demonstrating to the children meaningful ways of using writing such as making charts, lists, labels and schedules of daily activities. The children are read to regularly in both large and small groups as well as individually and are encouraged to engage with and explore stories and storytelling. Through play and with the support of teachers, children can explore letter recognition, letter sounds, rhymes and other early literacy development, which build a foundation for later, more structured and complex reading and writing skills.
It is also important to remember that school readiness skills are not merely a matter of knowing letters and numbers. It is equally important (perhaps even more so) that children have positive social experiences that help them learn what it is like to be a member of a group and learn about the structures and routines of school. Critical thinking skills that involve complex, higher-order cognitive functioning - such as articulating and exchanging ideas, listening to other points of view, reconciling differing opinions and inventing novel ways of solving problems - are essential to a child's development. Such skills emerge naturally in preschool children through play, especially when they are given the time and space to experiment and explore, and to encounter problems and solve them with the support of sensitive adults.
Our teachers develop and implement a curriculum that is child-centered and focuses on the emerging interests of children. The keen instincts and observational skills of the teachers allow them to foster a dynamic and engaging learning environment where children’s natural curiosity and wonder guide the process of learning through play. Because of this, the children of FTCNS are integral in creating the experience from which they learn. They establish for themselves what time they need to explore, evaluate and reflect on what they are learning.
Different themes may be explored in any given week or over multiple weeks. Themes are thoughtfully planned and creatively incorporated by our teachers. They are based on the interests and passions of the students as they emerge throughout the school year, as well as some parent feedback.