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!

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.

 

Oct 292014
 

Part of OCP’s strategic plan stresses engagement and cooperation with the wider community, and one of our favorite ways to get involved is to participate in the many local festivals in our area. Decatur hosts a number of family-friendly festivals throughout the year, from the nationally recognized AJC Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend to smaller, neighborhood-sponsored events like the Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, held in October in Harmony Park. OCP volunteers at the children’s sections at both festivals, as well as at the Decatur Earth Day Festival, at the Wylde Center, and the Decatur Beach Party, in downtown Decatur.

These four festivals give us a chance to meet our neighbors, share our story, and be a part of the community building that happens when organizations come together to celebrate—whether it’s celebrating books, art, music, or the environment. For the past two years, our booth at the Decatur Book Festival has featured a selection from our carefully curated library and a collaborative “progressive story,” where kids (and adults) can each contribute a sentence or two to create a whimsical—and often hilarious—tale. Because literacy is an important part of our days at OCP (from reading aloud to kids to finger plays to sharing stories), we are always excited and honored to play a role at our local book festival.

For the other festivals we participate in, we brainstorm creative crafts that use recycled and compostable materials to highlight our emphasis on green, environmentally friendly practices at OCP. At this fall’s Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, we were at the Kid Zone making toilet paper roll maracas with all the kids who stopped by. This neighborhood fall festival is always a great event, with food, music, art, kids’ activities, a parade, and other performances. We often get to see not only current OCP families but also alums of our school, and of course meet lots of families from the surrounding community. In the past, we’ve also created pinecone birdfeeders, toilet paper roll binoculars, and vegetable-stamped fans with children who come to our festival booths.

We value our partnerships with local organizations and try to get involved in a variety of ways. To celebrate fall, we recently installed a caterpillar “scarecrow” at the Wylde Center garden in Oakhurst. The caterpillar, made up of pumpkins decorated by all of our classes with recycled materials, will be on display for the Wylde Center’s member event on November 2. Please stop by and enjoy it with your kids while you can! You can see more photos of our insect friend on our Facebook page.

Sep 202014
 
By John ChescavageAutumn… a time for harvesting, changing colors, cool evenings, brisk air, and celebrations!  Each morning I can feel the cool of fall approaching, and it gets me excited for some of the best OCP celebrations of the year.  When Anna and I joined OCP a few years ago, we had motivations beyond the education of our children.  We were attracted to the community nature of the school and the prospect of meeting and befriending other young parents in our neighborhood.  As our daughter has moved from Chickadee to Lark, we can look back on all the great people we’ve met through OCP and know that many more friendships are in store!Two of my favorite celebrations are around the corner, and it has been at these gatherings that I’ve gotten to know many of the OCP parents beyond the daily drop-offs and quick passes in the hallway.  As you’ve already seen, the OCP Fall Bonfire (previously referred to as the Bonfire and Hootenanny) is just a couple weeks away (October 4).  Nestled in among the giant trees of the Wylde Center, this celebration serves as an opportunity to eat, drink, and dance with all of our members into the cool evening.  The kids love the s’mores, and I love seeing them all run around together exploring the friendly confines of what my daughter calls her “garden school.”

And before we know it December will come knocking, and with it Festivus.  I love this celebration for its community pot-luck dinner, the tables of handmade donations for the auction, and seeing what the kids have created in the classroom. This is really a pinnacle event for OCP with the focus on contributions into the community that everyone gets to enjoy.  It was impossible to try every bit of available home-cooking last year, but that won’t prevent me from trying again this year!

In between, of course, are other opportunities to get to know and enjoy the familial aspects of our OCP community, including facility work days (although hard, they are great bonding exercises) and Green Family Field Trips.  In fact, there’s a Green Family Field Trip scheduled for October 18, right about the time the weather in Atlanta is perfect for a good hike in the wilderness.

So make sure you mark your calendars for all the great celebrations that OCP has in store for the community, and make the effort to get to know fellow OCP parents!  After all, OCP is more than just a preschool!

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!