Our goal is to create a positive, secure environment that encourages children to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners and self-confident, caring adults.
We follow the open and flexible framework of the Creative Curriculum and integrate key elements of other well-known curricula, including Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, and Montessori, to create a play-based curriculum that focuses on the total development of the child, including cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills and language and communication.
We encourage curiosity about the natural world.
At OCP the outdoors is a place to explore living things, such as bugs and trees, as well as the natural elements of water, air, light, and earth. We strive to teach our children respect for all living things and their habitats. Seasonal themes and celebrations and a nature table in each classroom help children connect with the rhythms of nature.
Items collected from the outdoors are displayed as part of the nature table and are integrated into the day’s activities, from art projects to music to imaginative play. Healthy, natural, organic snacks are encouraged, and conversation around the table touches on the role nature plays in the food we eat. Through planting, tending, and harvesting their class’s garden bed, children are better able to understand where their food comes from.
We involve children in the daily tasks of family and community life.
Children help prepare the snack—making biscuits, cutting and spreading butter, making lemonade—which also emphasizes the process of an activity. They are encouraged to help each other set the table before eating and clean up after eating. These hands-on activities reflect life experience and help the children learn about making choices, helping others, and sharing.
We see parents as an integral part of the educational experience.
They participate in the classroom on a regular, rotating basis, experiencing the day with their child and classmates. Parents are encouraged to bring their skills and interests to the classroom or share them with the school as a whole. This unique practice enriches the classroom experience and aids in fostering the relationship between parent, teacher, and child.
We believe in “child-initiated learning” which cultivates independent thinking, problem-solving skills, mental flexibility, and complex, high-level thought. It also allows children to experience trial-and-error and teaches them to be responsive to feedback both from the environment and from their classmates and peers.
We carefully present each child’s work.
Teachers display work at several stages of completion and document the process in order to capture each child’s experiences, memories, thoughts, and ideas.
This documentation—a key component of the Reggio Emilia philosophy—makes the child’s learning visible—to the child, the parent, and the teacher—which conveys to the child that his or her efforts, intentions, and ideas are taken seriously. As a result, the child becomes more curious, confident, and committed; the parent has more appreciation for and interest in the child’s work; and the teacher’s attention is sharpened and focused.
We help children develop positive self-identity and respect for—and celebration of—differences by using materials that represent and draw from a variety of cultures, ethnicities, family structures, and equally represent both genders.
We want children to feel proud of themselves, their families, and their communities, and to appreciate and value diversity. We allow children to notice and discuss differences and help them understand their meaning. We teach children to recognize bias and unfair behavior and encourage and empower them to facilitate change.
We are committed to a Green Curriculum that introduces environmental education to young children in a holistic way to help them develop a lifetime of wonder and respect for the natural world.
We lead the children by example and teach tangible practices for living more sustainably. Even preschoolers are able to develop a baseline sense of environmental efficacy and stewardship that we hope will stay with them for a lifetime. As children deepen their connection with nature, they develop empathy, learn about science, and become eager and thinking caretakers of our earth.
Our classrooms are safe and inspiring places.
Children feel safe to explore and grow in safe, secure and welcoming spaces, which is how we design our classrooms.
Routines – a familiar greeting song during circle time, for example – are an important part of our curriculum, as they help to foster these feelings of safety and security for the children. We keep these routines flexible, however, in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the child.
We nurture children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder by offering an environment where they can freely and actively explore their surroundings.
Our classrooms are divided into “interest areas”—such as dramatic play, nature and discovery, music and movement—that allow for active exploration and investigation either alone or in small groups.
In these small group settings young children can engage in play that is more complex and elaborate, affording them a unique opportunity for exploring and learning.
We emphasize the process of the activity rather than the finished product. When possible, the making of materials such as play dough, “goop,” and paint is an activity itself. Materials are age-appropriate, diverse, and multisensory.
Natural toys and materials are favored. In line with the teachings of Waldorf, we also prefer simple, unfinished toys. The less finished and less suggestive a toy is, the greater its educational value, as it allows for open-ended imaginative play.
The outdoors is central to OCP’s curriculum.
The children spend a significant amount of their time outside in the Mark Treadwell Play Garden, named for a beloved member of the OCP community.
It was designed by a landscape architect—with extensive input from parents, alumni, and staff—to create an environment in which children can explore a natural space guided only by their imagination.
“We wanted natural spaces where children can be creative and really explore with their imagination, and with each other, like in the days before our lives were so structured,” says OCP director Betty Wood.
The garden includes tree stumps for sitting and storytelling, vegetable gardens, a composting area, a sand pit, an art wall, a music garden with outdoor drums and xylophones and an “exploratory garden,” where children can explore plants and wildlife with their senses. Instead of traditional playground equipment, the playscape provides tree trunks for climbing, a slide and tunnel built directly into a small hill, and a rustic, simple wood cabin. A central grass area is surrounded by a looping, curving sidewalk track for tricycle riders.
Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool creates a nurturing community that gives children and their families the opportunity to learn, communicate, play and grow together. In this positive, family-centered educational environment, we strive to develop each child’s curiosity, empathy, confidence, self-discipline, and enthusiasm for learning.
By encouraging children to be active and creative explorers of art, music, literature, nature, and the community, we provide a foundation for acquiring the skills children need to succeed both now and in the future. We model sustainable practices through our curriculum, daily operations, and community events.