Children’s behaviors and concept of self are shaped by their environment and experiences.
At Barron Park Preschool, our environment and teaching practices reflect our view that children have an unlimited potential to love and learn.
How a classroom ‘feels’ to a child is of utmost importance. The Barron Park classroom is imbued with the qualities of respect, wonder and fun. Teachers model playfulness that is creative and inclusive. As children play, they have meaningful experiences that draw on an inherent sense of curiosity, and excitement for learning. Young children do not learn through lesson plans and mandatory activities. Rather, they learn when they are curious and excited, when the activities are meaningful, and when they have freedom to explore the activities. For this reason, our curriculum arises from the needs and interests of the child.
Teachers carefully observe what attracts the heart and eye of the child. This becomes the curriculum. The teacher’s role then is to offer other experiences to allow for a depth of exploration of their interest. Here is a real-life example: a teacher noticed three children who suddenly became very interested in snails. They spent all of their time outside looking for snails, collecting them, building homes for them, “feeding” them. The next week, teachers helped the kids organize snail races, snail math, construct snail jungle gyms, and used snails to paint very original water colors.
Our goals are to help children develop:
- Lifetime love of learning
- Creative expression (in many forms)
- Independence and self-discipline
These goals are achieved by creating a warm and supportive environment that invites free expression and loving interactions among children and adults. The teachers serve as models by communicating in friendly and positive ways to each other and to the children. We allow and encourage children to express themselves through a variety of means, including verbal and artistic expression, dance and play. Active participation in music circles, games, and stories, help children acquire a variety of skills. As they learn to be part of a group, they become more effective communicators sharing thoughts and listening to others. Children develop confidence as they are given opportunities to share ideas with the group. Children develop empathy when they are exposed to others’ thoughts and feelings. And most importantly, they learn what it means to be a part of a group.
The family community is an integral part of our school. We value the families, and invite parent participation. Parents contribute meaningfully to our curriculum. We view our relationship with each family as a partnership. We both support and learn from parents as they experience parenthood.
In order to enhance the community atmosphere of the school, we set up many events throughout the year, including holiday gatherings that reflect the community, participation in the Palo Alto May Fete Parade and an annual campout. Every year the teachers and families reserve a beautiful campsite for a weekend and enjoy the outdoors together, hiking, playing, dining, and bonding. In addition to social events, twice a year, parents and teachers contribute time for school improvements. During these “work days”, parents take on projects that clean or improve the school. Work days epitomize the school community’s collective commitment to serve the child.
We embrace the unique gifts and talents of all the members of our school community. We want all members of our community to know that they are loved, and special, and important to us.
Autonomy is one of the primary values of Barron Park Preschool. Children gain positive self-esteem and self-concept when they are empowered to take responsibility for meeting their own needs, make choices for themselves, and come up with their own solutions whenever possible.
We can encourage autonomy by allowing children to carry their own belongings (lunch box) to and from cubbies, put their shoes on/take off by themselves, dress themselves, etc.
The teachers are here to support both the parents’ and children’s new awareness in this regard. We also want to be clear that our expectations for autonomy are individualized with each child’s development in mind.