Happy Earth Day and Welcome Spring!

 Education, Green  Comments Off on Happy Earth Day and Welcome Spring!
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!

2015/2016 School Year Admission FAQ

 Education, General Information  Comments Off on 2015/2016 School Year Admission FAQ
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!

Lessons on Community from a Preschool Classroom

 Education, Events, Food & Recipes  Comments Off on Lessons on Community from a Preschool Classroom
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.


Camp at OCP: Another Great Summer!

 Education, Food & Recipes, Green, Kids play  Comments Off on Camp at OCP: Another Great Summer!
Aug 082014
August 1 marked the last day of summer camp at OCP, and what a summer it was! The third year of OCP Summer Camp was our most successful yet, with both classes—Bumblebees (ages 3-4) and Dragonflies (ages 4-6)—full nearly every week. Our fantastic staff, made up of a camp director, two lead teachers, two assistant teachers, and one general assistant, created one-of-a-kind experiences for their campers, built around nature-based themes like the rainforest, gardening & insects, and reusing & recycling. It was a time of exploring, playing, learning, making new friends—and finding creative ways to stay cool in the summer heat!

In keeping with our emphasis during the school year on being good citizens of the Earth, the summer camp teachers found innovative ways to explore nature and the environment. The Dragonflies teachers introduced their kids to “The Living Rainforest” by helping them create a mural depicting the forest floor, the understory, the canopy, and the emergent layers of the rainforest. They built a shoebox tree up to the ceiling and made butterflies and snakes to flutter and slither around it. During “Young Scientists” week, the Bumblebees’ classroom became a laboratory, where the kids rotated through a variety of scientific stations learning about electricity with balloons, sound waves with liquid in glass bottles, germs with a black light, and gravity and force with rulers and tops.

“Farm to Table” week was a hit with everyone—the Dragonflies created a grocery store and farmer’s market, and all the kids were invited to shop. They learned about where food comes from, how it’s grown, and how it gets to our homes and tables. The kids cashiered, shopped, and reshelved. Best of all, they got to milk a “cow”—created with a broomstick, latex gloves, and evaporated milk. They capped off the week by making food together—bread and butter in the Bumblebees’ class and muffins in the Dragonflies’.

We loved having OCP kids and alums and new friends from the community join us this summer! Stay tuned for news about upcoming summer camp plans!

A Peek Inside the Classrooms, Vol. 2

 Education, Kids play  Comments Off on A Peek Inside the Classrooms, Vol. 2
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!