Apr 232014
 

Here’s the second edition of our up-and-personal visits to OCP’s classrooms this year.  Let’s learn about a very special part of the Sparrows’ day…

What do you get when you cross a class full of three-year-olds and a deck of yoga pose cards?  You’ll have to visit OCP’s Sparrows class at the end of the day to find out!  Susan Diamond uses yoga in her closing circle at the end of each day to calm the energy of the class as they prepare to go home.  The benefits of yoga are well-known, and those benefits are not just limited to adults.  Many studies have shown children to derive the same benefits from yoga.  For children, yoga can improve body awareness, which helps in strength, flexibility and balance.  Yoga teaches children how to breathe and quiet the mind, which promotes peaceful energy for better listening and attention.  In addition to physical balance, yoga also teaches children balance between busy time and quiet time.

So the end of each Sparrow day plays out something like this:  The kids have played outside and come in for lunch.  The last few “careful” eaters are encouraged to pack their lunch boxes away.  The more efficient eaters are instructed to put away their post-lunch free play toys, and all are invited to the mat for closing circle.  Susan pulls out the yoga card for the day and explains the pose to the children.  Two or three children get into it right away and go through each step as she introduces it.  One child watches skeptically.  One child immediately becomes overly interested in her shoelace and another announces he does not want to participate.  “That’s okay,” says Susan, “we are happy to have you when you are ready”.  By the time she reaches the end of the instruction, all Sparrows have joined in and each is engaged in his/her own interpretation of the pose.  Each student has come to enjoy it in his or her own way.  It is the perfect end to their wonderful play-based learning, and we appreciate Susan for giving our kids that gift.

The yoga card of the day is…

Warrior II!

Mar 282014
 

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights and special moments from our OCP classrooms this year.  First, a visit with the Chickadees and Larks…

Chickadees – Birthday Branch

To honor each child on his or her birthday, our Chickadees’ teacher Kate has created a “birthday branch” that hangs prominently in the classroom. On a child’s birthday, all the classmates help decorate a piece of wax paper secured by an embroidery hoop. They use paint, feathers, glitter, and objects they’ve gathered in their nature boxes, like leaves, flowers, and grasses. Kate then hangs the hoop from a string attached to the child’s picture (labeled with a birthdate), which hangs from a branch. By the end of the year, all the children will have a decorated hoop on the branch–and the classroom will have a beautiful display of all their special days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larks – “Daisy”

This year the Larks welcomed a new member of their class – Daisy the Dinosaur, a “for real pretend” pet!  She arrived in a glacier that Ms. Shannon’s friend Professor Higgins found at the South Pole, with these instructions: “You will need to care for her with gentle hands and kind words.”  After she melted out of her icy enclosure, Shannon asked, “What do you think of our new class pet?”  Replies from the Larks:

“I love the pet!”

“We can make the box her home.”

“What will be the dinosaur’s food?”

“You have to be careful with her; she is shy.”

She quickly became a fun and beloved friend, as well as a great way for the Larks to talk about what living creatures need to stay healthy and how to care for ourselves and others.  To care for Daisy the Larks have four helpful tips to follow; she must: #1 eat veggies, #2 drink water, #3 potty at school daily, and #4 take a rest in a cozy habitat each day (which was lovingly decorated by the Larks!).

Each student had a chance to take Daisy home for the weekend and introduce her to their family.  They also took home a journal to record their adventures with Daisy.  Activities Daisy participated in while visiting the Larks’ homes included:

Cooking dinner, playing, meeting family pets, riding in the car, dancing, learning how to brush and floss her teeth, eating breakfast at the Waffle House, visiting Fernbank Museum (rock climbing and seeing other dinosaurs!), napping, reading books, eating fruits and veggies, singing, swinging and playing on the monkey bars, doing gymnastics, playing in a tree house, going trick-or-treating dressed as a DAISY on Halloween, watching a puppet show, going grocery shopping, playing soccer, visiting the library (where they checked out dinosaur books), taking a bath, enjoying movie night w/ hot cocoa, learning about ‘Face Time’, playing dress-up, going to Athens, GA, for a trapeze performance, attending a birthday party, taking a road trip to North Carolina, meeting lots of relatives, going on a pajama walk, going to a pageant rehearsal, attending Festivus, and visiting the Atlanta Zoo (where she saw tigers, pandas, a komodo dragon and lots more animals).  Whew!

 

Daisy’s arrival

Daisy at the Zoo with the Sumatran tiger

Mar 222014
 

By Sarah Toth

Children are wiggly. Anyone who has spent time in a preschool classroom knows that sitting still is a skill few kids have mastered.  But, this is a good thing!  Physical activity is essential for children and their well-being.  Moving their bodies strengthens their hearts and bones, regulates their blood pressure, and contributes to overall physical health.  Exercise also helps strengthen kids’ minds.  It improves mood and stimulates brain growth, making kids feel better and learn more readily.  Studies show that children who participate in some form of regular physical activity have better problem solving capabilities and have lower levels of cortisol, a stress induced hormone.

While “exercise” may conjure thoughts of monotonous treadmills, unattainable goals, and damp and smelly gyms, physical activity with kids can be fun and pretty easy for everyone!  A simple walk down a nature trail can turn into a great adventure for budding explorers or scientists.  Get your kids moving with anything from a game of hide and seek to a gentle bike ride.  With easy access to many beautiful natural areas and parks in the greater Atlanta area (find some great ideas here), there is no shortage of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the spring.

In addition, here’s an opportunity to get some quality body-moving time for the whole family: OCP’s 7th annual 5K race, Beat the Street for Little Feet, on Saturday, May 3, is quickly approaching!  Held in the Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur, this race is especially family-friendly, and there are several options: a 5K race with a jogging stroller division, a one mile race, and a “tot trot” for the youngest kids.  We also hold a post-race celebration and awards ceremony, including a children’s party with activities and music.  Nationally known, local artist James Dean draws a special “Pete the Cat” image for our race shirt each year, and this year’s Pete is one of the best yet (all pre-registered runners are guaranteed a race shirt, and the “tot trot” runners each receive a Pete the Cat “medal”).  To register for the race, please visit www.ocprace.com.  (And if you have an interest in sponsoring our race, please email OCP parent Kimberly Head Amos at 5k@oakhurstcoop.com.)

Being active as a family helps kids embrace their need to run, bounce, climb, and play, and it fosters a love for physical activity that children will carry into adulthood.  Parents are great examples when it comes to exercise and fitness.  So gather your family, embrace your inner child, and get moving!

Feb 222014
 

by Betty Wood, OCP Director

Interwoven throughout the history of the evolution of cooperative preschools is a core belief system founded in the natural rights of the child and the responsibility of parents to ensure a proper education.  Cooperative preschools have traditionally followed a humanistic developmental model influenced by  the early education philosophies of  Comenius, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi.  As early as 1628 Jan Comenius emphasized teaching children under the age of six the basic foundations of learning through structured play.  Early childhood education was so critical to the child’s preparation for higher learning that Comenius strongly proposed that teachers of  preschool children should be better educated and earn higher salaries than teachers of older children.  The child’s education originated at birth according to Jean Jacques Rousseau  who wrote the well-known Emile in 1762. The adult’s role in the child’s life was to facilitate the learning process in response to the child’s own interest in the natural world.  Like Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, a Swiss schoolmaster in the early 1800s, viewed education as the gradual unfolding of the child’s innate ability.  Parents and teachers were instructed to encourage the child to discover his unique abilities through observation and investigation of nature.  Outdoor explorations were incorporated into the daily curriculum and brought indoors for further exploration.

Two of the earliest models for cooperative preschools in the United States emerged from Utopian communities which established play schools to care for children while parents worked.  Robert Owen’s Village of New Harmony, Indiana was founded in 1826.  New Harmony emphasized teaching the children to be socially cooperative in their play while becoming independent thinkers who were responsible for their own actions.  Brook Farm, founded in Boston, Massachusetts  in 1841, provided a cooperative preschool for its children in which both fathers and mothers rotated the responsibility of assisting the preschool teacher in the classroom.

Friedrich Froebel was instrumental in developing German kindergartens based on Pestalozzi’s theory during the 1840s and 1850s.  His influence on cooperatives in the United States was introduced by German immigrants in 1848 and further developed by William and Eudora Hailmann from the 1860s through the 1890s.  The Hailmann educational philosophy centered around the child’s natural ability to learn through play in the classroom, on the playground, and in the garden.  The teacher’s role was to facilitate learning through self-realization and self-control, preparing children for becoming well balanced adults.  Reading, writing, and ciphering were consciously excluded from the curriculum. Mothers and older sisters were expected to work in the classroom with the teachers.  Parent participation was valued in that the Hailmanns believed that just as children need a circle of friends in kindergarten so do the mothers as they learn to work with the teachers in the joint education of their children.

As the mother’s role in education became more recognized, mothers gained confidence in their ability to influence the course of their children’s education and organized to found the Congress of Mothers in 1897 which later became known as the Parent Teachers Association in 1924.  By the end of the nineteenth century the fields of education, psychology, pediatrics, and health were becoming more organized as associations with an emphasis on the welfare of the child. Increased numbers of middle class, educated families had come to recognize kindergarten as a socially accepted institution which provided mothers an opportunity to extend their domestic roles to the community by volunteering to assist teachers in the classroom in the education of their children and/or organizing and raising funds for the good of the children in schools.

The first schools in the United States to identify themselves as cooperative preschools were established in 1915.  Northside Cooperative Nursery School was founded by a neighborhood  community in Pasadena, California and The Chicago Cooperative Nursery School was founded by faculty wives at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.  In both schools parents maintained the buildings and grounds, elected a Board, participated in the classrooms one day each week, and met for parent education classes one afternoon each week.  As the Chicago cooperative developed, University education and home economics students worked as interns and the cooperative emerged into a laboratory school serving the University.  By 1943, twenty eight additional cooperative preschools were founded in the states of  Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

As the number of cooperative preschools grew in the 1950s and 1960s, independent cooperatives formed councils of cooperative preschools to share information and to provide professional support.  Montgomery County Council of Cooperative Nursery Schools was established in Maryland in 1943.  In 1948 the California Council of Cooperative Nursery Schools was established and by 1960, there were more than one thousand cooperative preschools in the United States. The American Council  for Parent Cooperatives was established in 1960 which later changed its name to Parent Cooperative Preschools International when Canada and New Zealand became part of the Council in 1964.

The years between World War I and World War II, 1915-1945, brought significant changes in families in the United States.  During both wars women joined the workforce or continued their education while learning to depend upon extend family or neighborhood women to assist in the care and education of their children.  Gender role expectations had begun to shift.  The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.  By 1930, less than half of the United States population lived on farms with extended families.  The general public was becoming increasingly informed in the theories of  parenting and education as names such as Freud, Watson, Gesell, and Erickson were prominently featured in articles in Parents Magazine.

The post-war period, following World War II, in the United States held the promise of a bright future for families.  Veterans were attending college on the GI Bill and purchasing homes with low interest GI mortgages.  Birth rates increased and families migrated to the suburbs.  New and better appliances replaced routine household chores. Women who had worked outside of the home during the depression out of necessity and during wartime out of patriotic duty had lost their jobs within a few  months after the end of World War II.  Dr. Benjamin Spock, popular pediatrician, advocated permissive parenting practices based on the needs of the child.  With rapid changes in the family structure and in women’s roles, many mothers and wives felt displaced, inadequate, and incompetent.   Parent cooperative preschools provided a social support network which met familial, personal, and professional needs during this time.  Women who participated in cooperative preschools increased their parenting skills and acquired new skills as they chaired committees and organized fundraising events.  As fathers and mothers worked together for the benefit of their children in parent cooperative preschools, gender role expectations in parenting underwent significant changes.  Fathers learned to become nurturers and educators of their children under the guidance of the teachers and other parents in the community while mothers became organizers and policy makers in their committee responsibilities and service on the Board of Directors.

The tumultuous 1960s and social response to the Viet Nam War further influenced the social perception of gender role expectations and family structure in the United States.  Many families chose unconventional family structures that paved the way for the various demands placed on young families in the later part of the 20th Century.  Now in the 2000s, families enjoy the freedom of structuring their families to meet the financial and parenting needs of the family.  Cooperative preschools continue to meet the needs of families who want to actively participate in the nurturance and education of their children while pursuing their careers.  Today, flex time for both parents and the socially recognized role of either the father’s or mother’s choice to be a stay at home parent while the children are young, lends itself to parent participation in cooperatives where both parents and children develop social values and skills which contribute to a life-long commitment to community responsibility.

 

(Statistical information and historical facts are based on accounts from “It’s the Camaraderie” A History of Parent Cooperative Preschools. Dorothy W. Hines, Ph.D. 1998 Center for Cooperatives, University of California)

Feb 062014
 

We asked several of our current parents how they decided OCP was right for their families.  Here are their answers:

“Our friends were members of OCP and could not speak more highly of it. I was especially drawn to the idea of being a part of such a strong, tight-knit community. The parent-teaching was a plus, too, because I wanted to be a part of my young daughter’s education. It ended up being the best decision for us.”

–Heidi, mom to an OCP alum and a current Chickadee

“We looked at easily a half dozen options, but what ultimately made our decision easy was that our 3-year-old engaged immediately in the classroom environment. The outdoor play area was a huge hit, too, and a big factor. Our son loves being outside.”

– Rick, dad to a Sparrow

“Our 3 year old son was immediately at ease at OCP, which was a major concern for us as it was his first experience away from home. He immediately loved his teacher and the school, inside and out. (The play garden is amazing.) We really wanted to have a place with small classes where we could be actively involved in all aspects of his school and be part of a community. OCP excelled in all those areas. We love it here. We only wish it went through Kindergarten.”

– Lee and Clay, parents of a Lark

“Being new to the city, we were looking for a pre-school that was more than just a place for our son to spend each day, but also an open and welcoming community for the entire family.  I could sense that about OCP right away.  I was especially impressed with the genuine dedication to green principles and to building the children’s connection with the natural environment.  Upon meeting the director and teacher – and seeing my son engage with them – I knew this was the right place for him.  And that was before we even discovered the absolute gem that is the Playgarden!”

– Amanda, mom to a Lark

“When I went to the OCP information meeting before applying, I didn’t realize I would find a place completely different than the Morning Out that our oldest had attended in a traditional preschool.  OCP was just on another level.  Betty talked about Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting, and I was mesmerized.  I could tell that Betty was a wealth of information about children (but of course at the time I didn’t know that she’d had a private practice counseling children for 30 years).  Betty talked about treating children with a level of respect that doesn’t typically exist in the “regular” world.  In addition, the environmental focus really resonated with me.  I also got the sense that the OCP community was tight-knit and very supportive, due in part to the school’s cooperative structure.  In short, we couldn’t possibly love OCP any more.”

–Kimberly, mom to an OCP alum and current Lark

We ultimately chose OCP because of its emphasis on Community. This was our son’s first experience with being away from us during the day (or away from us at all, for that matter!) and it was important to us that he felt that school was a natural, comfortable progression and expansion of our close circle of family and friends. We could not be more pleased with how this has, so organically, taken place. Our son loves going to school, gets excited to see the teachers, and is thrilled when he sees his classmates out and about in the neighborhood. We’re thrilled that his introduction to school has been such a positive and enriching experience.

–Erin, mom to a Chickadee