Our goal at Snohomish Cooperative Preschool is to provide a balanced preschool program for the whole child. We value physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and creative exploration. While your child is at preschool, they may learn specific skills such as name and letter recognition, using scissors, or turning somersaults. Our larger goals, however, are harder for us to observe. We are watching for signs that children communicate their thoughts and feelings clearly, become comfortable with a variety of people, and gain confidence exploring the classroom. We want children to learn to approach life with joy, curiosity and confidence. These are attributes that will enrich their lives and assist them as lifelong learners.
To meet these goals, we pay close attention to how young children learn, think and feel. We continually develop our learning philosophy based on current best practices in early childhood education. Each cooperative preschool teacher and parent also contribute their talents, interests and styles to enrich our program. Our philosophy is as follows:
1. Play is the primary vehicle for children’s growth. Children are natural learners and they learn through play, especially when self-initiated. Play is how they explore the world and take information from it. Play-based learning is not outcome orientated, instead we focus on the process of learning and how children develop skills as a result. Through the process of play with the support of trusted adults, children will develop their cooperative skills and the ability to express their needs and emotions. The development of these skills and their connection to social-emotional intelligence is the basis of our cooperative model at SCP. Play-centered activities help children develop their understanding of cause and effect along with their gross and fine motor skills. As adults, we are there to set safe parameters for learning and growth, we are not there to determine outcomes.
2. There is no hurry to learn. Children need adults to provide a confident, relaxed attitude that they will learn all they need to know. They will grow teeth, walk, share and read when they are ready. The learning children do in these early years provides a broad foundation that makes it possible to learn more sophisticated skills later.
3. Children learn through their senses. Early learning requires materials which can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted. These sensory impressions form the mental pictures which can later be represented by written words. Without these impressions, words are meaningless. Also, children need to experience the size, weight, movement, and other properties of materials they handle so that math and science concepts make real sense to them later.
4. Children learn best through concrete experiences. They learn by doing. When they explore the world using their own senses and find the connection between themselves and new experiences, learning happens. Our children are free to use their bodies, make some noise, and make messes. These explorations, with the support of caring adults and teachers, are for which our preschool is designed.
5. Growth will come through connection. The cooperative model incorporates involved parents as teaching assistants in order to further support the building of connection. Children learn quickly with the gift of attention, this is why our classroom is set up with a small child to adult ratio. We want our working parents to engage with our students, converse with them, encourage their learning and support them through challenges. Let them see your enthusiasm for their learning and share in their excitement in developing new skills. Feel free to build relationships with individual children. When children feel connected to the adults in the classroom, they will respond more positively to guidance and learning instruction.
6. Children need to learn about themselves and their own lives first. We plan activities that are real and relevant to children’s lives. They make sense of their life by playing house, or taking a field trip to the pumpkin farm. As they grow older, they will become ready to learn about people, places, and ideas that are more removed from their daily lives.
7. Children must address their own physical and emotional needs first. At the beginning of preschool, it may take all of their energy to separate from parents, learn to use the preschool’s bathroom or figure out how to go outside and come back in when the rest of the group does. It is only after children feel secure that they can focus on more complex skills such as sharing, turn taking, learning new concepts, exploring their creativity, or developing language skills. Children can express a full range of emotions at school. At this age children are learning the names for their emotions and what to do with them. They can cry, get mad, feel scared, anxious or frustrated so long as people and property are safe. We do not shame, belittle or tease children for expressing those feelings. We respect each child as a unique person with unique needs, temperament, interests, abilities, and learning style. It is OK to be just who they are at preschool. SCP believes children have the right to feel their feelings and we believe in teaching children to process those emotions in a safe and healthy way.
8. Preschool curriculum is multicultural, non-religious, non-biased and anti-racist. We are creating a non-competitive, open and welcoming environment so all children and their families feel invited and safe. Every child and family is valued for their unique contributions to the classroom community and can see themselves represented in their learning environment. Education around these policies will occur in the classroom and during parent meetings. Our work is ongoing and we are constantly evaluating how to further incorporate anti-bias education standards into our program’s existing policies and practices.