Apr 222015
 

By Amy Gearheard

Spring brings so many fresh new beginnings. There are many opportunities to explore, get outside, and learn about our natural world. One of the ways we celebrate Spring at OCP is the second field trip to the Wylde Center. Each classroom gets to spend the whole school day learning and playing outside – and visiting the chickens of course! The field trips to the Wylde Center are always a favorite day for kids and parents alike.

Spring is happening in the classroom and in our play garden as well. Our play garden offers a wonderful opportunity to teach the kids about where some of our foods come from. They get to see how fun it can be to sow, tend, and grow plants. And who doesn’t like to get a little dirty sometimes? The Green Committee has been hard at work planning the OCP community beds for the Spring and Summer months. Each classroom gets to help as well. Over the next few weeks, the kids will plant seeds inside for the play garden beds. The Larks, Sparrows & Owls will be creating milk jug greenhouses for tomatoes & basil. The Chickadees & Wrens will be sowing beans for the bamboo poles that frame the community beds. The beds will also contain herbs, wild flowers and lettuces.

We are especially excited to announce that OCP will be donating a Garden Loom (or Earth Loom) to the Wylde Center in honor of Earth Day 2015! The loom has been generously constructed by Ben Monroe, one of our own Lark dads, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. A Garden Loom is a collective, interactive, and beautiful art project that will have a permanent home in the Children’s Area of the Wylde Center’s Oakhurst Garden after spending this “Earth Week” in OCP’s play garden. The Garden Loom is a representation of OCP’s green values and community-building efforts, as well as our longstanding partnership with the Wylde Center and Oakhurst neighborhood. In the hands-on experience of weaving a Garden Loom, a community comes together using natural materials found around the garden (flowers, grasses, branches, etc.) and fibers like cloth and wool to create a seasonal canvas: a continually evolving picture of how we relate to each other and our planet.  We can’t wait to see the “living weaving” our OCP kids, teachers, and members create this week!

Happy Spring! Merry Planting!

Apr 172015
 

by Runa Gokhale

Spring is here! If the pollen didn’t clue you in, then the muddy boots joyfully tramping home from the Wylde Center I’m sure did. When the sun is out and flowers are blooming it’s tough to stay inside (just ask our kids!), and with the vibrant community of Oakhurst at our doorstep why would we? A few historical facts about Oakhurst that you may not have known:

  • Oakhurst originally developed as a streetcar suburb of Atlanta. The Atlanta City Street Railway Company built the North Decatur trolley line in 1892. This line crossed the South Decatur trolley line at the center of the Oakhurst business district – the intersection of East Lake Drive, Oakview Road and Mead Road.
  • In 1910 the Georgia Legislature approved the incorporation of Oakhurst. Oakhurst’s population was approximately 100 people at the time of incorporation, mostly located around the railroad tracks near College Avenue and the present MARTA station.
  • A fire in 1916 at Oakhurst’s City Hall/Schoolhouse destroyed all of the town records, so little is known about the old Town of Oakhurst.

Oakhurst offers endless opportunities to take advantage of Atlanta’s famously beautiful Spring weather, including:

One more opportunity to explore our Oakhurst community? Run, stroll or trot your way through the neighborhood as a participant in the 8th Annual Beat the Street for Little Feet 5K!

This year’s race will take place on Saturday, May 2nd and features, as always, a 5K with a jogging stroller division, a 1-mile Fun Run, and a tot trot for the littlest ones. “Pete the Cat” t-shirts designed exclusively for the race by nationally known Decatur artist James Dean will be provided with registration to all racers, and are available for purchase as well. The race will be followed by a celebration and awards ceremony, with awards presented to winners of each age division and a “Pete the Cat” medal to all tot trot participants. There will also be a children’s party with activities and music. Please register for the race (or for your t-shirt!) at www.ocprace.com. If you are interested in sponsoring the race, please email OCP parent Sarah Toth at smtoth2@hotmail.com.

So spread the word and come out yourselves to celebrate OCP, Oakhurst, Spring, and “Pete the Cat” – we hope to see you there!

Feb 232015
 

By Nancy Rinehart

One of the core values at OCP is our Green Curriculum, where our children are encouraged to connect with nature in their everyday lives, and to be curious and respectful of nature. In keeping with these values, we also incorporate the Green Curriculum when it’s time to have fun with our families! OCP hosts several events throughout the year for our families, all with a component of celebrating the season.

When the leaves begin to color and the air gets crisp in early October, OCP hosts our annual Bonfire (and Hootenanny) for current and past members at the Wylde Center. We celebrate fall with a big family picnic, a bright fire, s’mores, and lots of music. The kids have a blast running through the gardens, checking out the frog pond and the chicken coop, and toasting marshmallows. Grownups have a chance to relax and socialize, and if they don’t mind drinking out of one of our reusable kiddie cups, toasting the new school year with a more adult beverage.

Next up is our Harvest Celebration. This celebration epitomizes the connection with nature and community that we hope to foster at OCP. Earlier in the school year the children helped plant and tend vegetables in the garden beds in the play garden, and just before the celebration they harvest these vegetables. Working together, they make invitations for their families, create beautiful autumn table settings, and prepare soup with their harvest. Family members can join each class for lunch to share the soups, salads, and bread and butter that their children have created.

In wintertime, we celebrate our community with Festivus. (Yes, that’s a Seinfeld reference.) While we have specifically opted not to celebrate religious holidays or holidays that have become overly commercial, every culture has some form of celebration for the return of light in the dark of winter. We gather with our members, old and new, for a magnificent pot luck dinner. We appreciate our teachers and auction handmade items and services created by our members. It’s a great way to get to know the skills and artistry of our own community.

We show love for our families again in early February with Grandparents and Special Friends Day. The children invite their grandparents or other adult friends and relatives to join them in their classrooms for snacks, activities, and outside play. This year we had over 50 visitors, some even flying in from across the country!

We also celebrate the coming of Spring with a Lunar New Year Day and a mini-Holi Festival. The children learn about the traditions of these holidays from the Chinese and Indian cultures, respectively. They love trying the long noodles for a long life, and if you’ve never seen Holi at a preschool – it’s a blast! The kids enthusiastically throw brightly colored powders onto big white sheets strung up in the play garden, with much of it ending up on children and adults alike. It’s grand, messy, spring-time fun!

We round out the year by sending off our Larks (the 4 year olds) with a Fiesta in the park. We welcome summer and wish our graduates the best of luck in kindergarten with yummy Mexican food and lots of playtime.

There is much to celebrate in the turning of the seasons, and at OCP we have a great time observing nature both in school and out all year long!

Jan 142015
 

We are currently accepting applications for the 2015/2016 school year. With that in mind, here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Email us at admissions@oakhurstcoop.com to set up a tour or with any questions about our school.

Q: How is a cooperative preschool different from a traditional preschool?
A: Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool (OCP) is a non-profit parent cooperative overseen by a board of parent volunteers. The school is operated by the parents and staffed by a director and professional teachers. Co-op members serve on the board of directors and on committees. They make budget decisions, hire staff, and set policies. Members also help out in day-to-day ways. Parents rotate certain daily responsibilities. For example, parent-teachers assist in the classrooms and rotate the responsibility of bringing a daily snack.

Q: Is there more work involved in a cooperative preschool?
A: For parents, the time commitment is significant but not burdensome. Parents report that they enjoy their work within the co-op because they make a meaningful contribution to their child’s education, form lasting friendships with other families and have the opportunity to learn new skills.

Q: What are the responsibilities of each family?
A: Each family is responsible for four things: tuition, serving as a parent-teacher, serving on a committee, and completing three work days per year. Our tuition schedule is located here: http://oakhurstcoop.com/admissions/tuition-schedule. Your parent-teacher days are divided among the other parents in your class; for example, if there are 8 students in your class, you will be the parent-teacher (PT) every 8 class sessions. Our committees run the operations of the school and are listed out here: http://oakhurstcoop.com/co-op/committees. Each committee meets once per month and assigns tasks to each member. Our work days are how we keep our school running. Work day opportunities consist of working booths at neighborhood events, maintaining the grounds, setting up our family events, working a book fair, and volunteering for our annual 5K road race, Beat the Street for Little Feet held in May.

Q: What is the makeup of each class?
A: Each class has a professional teacher, a parent teacher, and a number of students based on the age of the class. Our 2-year old classes have 6-7 students. Our 3-year-old classes have 8 students. Our 4-year-old/Pre-K class has a professional teacher, a professional teacher’s assistant 3 days per week, and parent teachers fill in the remaining 2 days per week. This class has less parental involvement in order to help better prepare our students for their next school experience…kindergarten!

Q: What are your hours? Are you a full-day program?
A: Our school hours are 9am-12:45pm. We do offer an enrichment class that goes until 1:30pm that is open to potty-trained 3- and 4-year-olds. We offer 2-day programs (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and 3-day programs (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) for our 2- and 3-year old classes. We offer 3, 4, or 5-day programs for our 4-year-old classes.

Q: What is the youngest age you accept?
A: Our youngest 2-year-old class requires students to be age 2 by September 1st.

Q: Where are you located?
A: We are located in the Oakhurst neighborhood in Decatur, GA. Our building is right behind Thankful Baptist Church located on West College Avenue.

Q: What sort of outside play space do you have?
A: We have a lovely play area located adjacent to our school, affectionately known as the Play Garden. It is a fully enclosed space designed by a landscape architect to uphold our core values – a cooperative, green, learning environment. We spend a good amount of time each class day outside (rain or shine!) where the students can ride tricycles, play in the sand area or play house, race around the sidewalk, stroll through our natural garden, or help water their class’s garden plots.

Q: What curriculum do you use?
A: We carefully selected the open and flexible framework of the Creative Curriculum and integrated key elements of other well-known curricula (Reggio-Emilia, Waldorf, Montessori) to create a unique learning experience for young children.

Q: Sounds great! How do I apply?
A: Complete the application (http://oakhurstcoop.com/admissions/new-family-applications) and send in a non-refundable application fee of $75. For a list of our upcoming tours, please visit our admissions page (http://oakhurstcoop.com/admissions/admissions-overview). Email admissions@oakhurstcoop.com with any questions, as we are all very excited to talk about our school!

Dec 012014
 

By Heidi Hill

Last week I sat at a children’s table, lovingly covered with a handmade tablecloth and laden with bread and homemade butter and soup, and was grateful once again to live in this very special community. I was taking part in the Harvest festival here at OCP, when the children prepare a soup from vegetables harvested from their school garden plots and share it with their families and friends. The children—ages two to five—helped take the vegetables they’d grown out of the ground, washed them, chopped them, and put them in the pot for the soup. They made the butter by hand (in a jar with marbles) and the decorations and place cards on the table. Their pride and enthusiasm over what they had done, even in my three-year-old’s class, speaks volumes about why it’s important to let kids create on their own terms. Their ability to work together and share in the rewards of that work speaks volumes about what it means to be a part of a strong community.

My experience growing up (in the suburbs of Atlanta) was very different from my kids’ experience. They learn in school about living sustainably and being good stewards of the earth. They get hands-on experience in growing their own food and preparing it. They talk about and have a chance to practice living in community—helping one another, doing your work, and taking care of your shared space. And they have a chance to learn from people who model good earth citizenship: gardening, recycling and composting and conserving, walking and biking to school and work.

OCP is a cooperative, so everyone pitches in—the children help determine what each day will hold, the teachers work together to present our curriculum, and the families are in the classrooms every day as parent-teachers. On Harvest, I was the parent-teacher, and I got to watch my son and his classmates prepare the soup that I would soon enjoy for lunch. I admired the table decorated with pumpkins and acorns and a tablecloth printed with vegetable stamps—all designed by little hands. When the other families joined us at noon, we all sat together (for a bit, at least) to eat, talk, and be thankful. For the food, the effort it took, and the community we all work so hard to create.

Reprinted from the Lake Claire Clarion, November 2013.