Getting to Know the OCP Staff

 Education, General Information  Comments Off on Getting to Know the OCP Staff
Oct 112015
The teachers at OCP are many things—facilitators, co-explorers, models, guides. With their young students—our young children—they take to heart the idea that “the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” We think of our staff at OCP as our best resource, while our kids think of them as grown-ups to play with, learn with, trust, love, and grow with. Take a few minutes to get to know Ms. Betty, Ms. Tova, Ms. CJ, Ms. Michelle, Ms. Susan, and Ms. Margie.

Betty Wood,
What is your OCP story?

While working as director of Inman Park Cooperative Preschool, I consulted with [OCP founders] Laura LeDuke and Michelle Davis-Watts about creating OCP. They continued to consult with me as they founded OCP in 2005. Having been on OCP’s Advisory Council and resigning from IPCP, I was invited to interview for director of OCP in March of 2008. Since I had experienced best practices and challenges at IPCP, I wanted to ensure that OCP and I were a good fit. When offered the position, I expected to begin work in August. The OCP board invited me to begin working with them in April and May to orient me to OCP and hire teachers for the 2008-09 school year.  It was definitely a good fit.

What is one thing you’re excited to explore with your kids this year?

The teachers and I have noticed that most of the children enrolled at OCP this year seem to have well-developed interpersonal skills. They are naturally kind and caring. I am excited about working with the teachers and parents in helping the children find the language to clearly express their emotions and communicate effectively with their peers. We already see many friendships forming. Hopefully this year will give the children a strong foundation for creating and strengthening friendships throughout their lives.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

I appreciate our nature-based curriculum. Spending time outdoors is naturally healing and grounding for children and adults. Some of the child’s first experiences are in nature with their parents. The child is curious in exploring nature and learning about their world. Our curriculum supports the child’s exploration and confirms their confidence in the world around them. Bonds established in nature are deeper and more enduring.

Tova Johnson, Chickadees (Younger 2’s)
What is your OCP story?kaymbu-image-20151010-1550(1)

I wanted to teach again, but it needed to be a very special place. OCP is an inspiration on so many levels, and the search for inspiration truly led me here! A simple online search led to an interview, and that led to being the Chickadee teacher.

What is one thing you are excited to explore with your kids this year?

I am excited to explore the spontaneity within the plans! Chickadees will tell you what is on their mind in very interesting ways. So being alert to the little phrases or the looks of wonder or the discoveries they make along the way is what I am excited to catch wind of and infuse into the planned learning!

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

I love how OCP follows nature and her seasons for curriculum inspiration. That is definitely one of my favorite aspects of OCP’S curriculum, but there are so many!

CJ Evans, Wrens (Older 2’s)
What is your OCP story?

[Larks teacher] Margie Ashe has been one of my best friends for years. When she started teaching at OCP a few years ago, I thought she had found the perfect job. For a mom of elementary-age kids, the location and hours were ideal, and she always spoke so highly of the OCP community and culture. The following year, when Margie moved to the Larks class, the Wrens teaching job opened up, and I was so excited to apply for the job. OCP has lived up to its reputation. I really enjoy teaching the Wrens class and being surrounded by such fantastic people.

What is one thing you’re excited to explore with your kids this year?

I’m most excited for the fall and our Harvest festival. We just did a planting this week, so the kids are very enthusiastic about tending our garden. They have been watering the plants and seeds diligently. It will be so fun to see the plants grow and harvest them with the children in November! To prepare for the festival, we will work together to wash and chop the vegetables and make soup. I love being with the children through this process and helping them see what they are capable of doing.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?   

The thing that I enjoy hearing the most from the children is “I did it!” Their faces are filled with such joy when they are able to accomplish difficult tasks, such as zipping their coat, putting on their shoes, or preparing banana bread for snack. The children are included in all of our daily tasks, and our focus is on the process instead of the end result. This allows the children to try hard things and to grow in confidence as they are able to do more for themselves and each other as we go through the year.

Michelle Bennett, Owls (3’s)
What is your OCP story?

I was working with Betty at Inman Park Co-op, and when OCP decided to start a pre-k program, I came and presented my ideas. They liked it, so I joined the staff in 2007 as the first pre-k (Larks) teacher. I left OCP for a time when my son, Jackson, was born. We came back in 2012 as a co-op family, and Jackson started as a Wren. During his three years at OCP, I subbed frequently, including some long-term subbing. I knew I always wanted to return to teaching, and this year the timing was right!

What is one thing you are excited to explore with your kids this year?

In my class of eight boys, I will be exploring conscious discipline, helping my kids become more assertive and use their “big boy” voices with their friends in the classroom.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

My favorite part of OCP’s curriculum is the idea that process is more important than product. We explore this in many ways in our classroom activities, but it also extends into daily life. I love that the kids are able to live in their own world at OCP, and don’t have to fit into our grown-up world like they do outside of school. We recently did splatter painting in class, and I documented the technique we used to splatter the paint. But then they had the freedom to play in the paint afterward and smear it on their paper, so it didn’t end up looking like a splatter painting. The point wasn’t the final product, but the process and fun we had getting there.

Susan Diamond, Sparrows (3’s)
kaymbu-image-20151010-1551(1)What is your OCP story?

Betty brought me to OCP. I first got to know her when she was the director of my daughter’s preschool, Inman Park Cooperative Preschool, and then I started working with her at Inman Park. When she came to OCP, I decided to join her.

What is one thing you are excited to explore with your kids this year?

This year I would like to focus on the natural world around us here in Georgia. We will learn about trees, the forest, and the creatures who make it their home.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

The aspect of our curriculum that is most important to me is right there in the name, cooperative. My daughter went to a cooperative preschool and I loved that the small size of the school and the parental involvement meant that she became familiar with the other teachers and the parents of her schoolmates as well as the other children. The presence of the parents truly creates a warm and safe community, which is a wonderful step into the wider world for children who have, until that time, been used to the small community of their family.

Margie Ashe, Larks (4’s)
What is your OCP story?

kaymbu-image-20151010-1551I came to OCP as a parent in 2006. We had just moved to Decatur from Cobb County and were so happy to find a like-minded community. I assumed the experience would be primarily for my daughter, but I wound up learning so much here as a parent and as a teacher. Lillian, now in middle school, is still close to many of the friends she made at OCP.

What is one thing you’re excited to explore with your kids this year?

I’ve spent the summer reading about making picture books with young children. My goal is for the Larks to see themselves as writers, even if their books only contain illustrations. Just because a child isn’t ready to transcribe a story doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of creating a story and thinking deeply about the craft of writing.

What is one of your favorite aspects of OCP’s curriculum, and why is it important to you?

I really appreciate our emphasis on process over end product. Making cute crafts that all look the same would not be very fulfilling. I’ve always been inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, where the curriculum and projects emerge from the children’s interests. What makes my job as the Larks teacher fun and challenging is finding ways to implement the pre-K standards into our child-led curriculum.

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!

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!