Child-Built Wooden Play House

We finally broke ground and started construction on our child-built wooden play house project.

The Learning Group: “The Rainbow Piano Truck Stop Monsters.” The Children: Beryl, Aaron, Faris, Julian, Lincoln, Jackson, and Alex.”

Written by Teacher Steven in Mid-August —

Getting Started

After many weeks of discussing, brainstorming and planning, it’s time to put our skills to work. We made a last minute change to our plans in that rather than purchasing all the lumber and wood pieces, we’re going to try and find most of the wood materials by recycling old shipping pallets. I got the inspiration after seeing a couple of pictures and thought it would help demonstrate how we can recycle and transform old items into something new. We found the mother lode downstairs in the building loading dock: a pallet stack so high it was taller than myself. We found the perfect piece that would serve as the floor of the house: a piece that was large enough “to fit the whole group at the same time,” as the children like to remind me. The only problem was, it was a super rough piece with plenty of splinters.

Making it Safe

So, very carefully, the children spent a couple of mornings with me sanding down the whole piece and looking for rough spots. They became quite skilled at looking for areas that required more sanding by running their hands on the surface very carefully and gently so as to keep from giving themselves a splinter. After manually sanding a couple of mornings, the group got to try using a power sander, as well. The objective was to get the pallet smooth enough so that children could play on it safely, especially since many children like to take off their shoes.

Making it Fit

To begin framing the house, we had to cut 2×4’s to the right lengths. Out came the tape measure. Everyone in the group had a chance to find 48″ on the tape and make a mark on a different piece of the wood. After measuring and double checking many times, we used a hand saw to cut the pieces to the correct size.

Cutting to Size

Friends practiced safe use of the saw and helped to cut down the 2×4’s. They will serve as the vertical studs of the house to which we will eventually nail all the siding. The responsibility and empowering feeling of being trusted with a “grown up” tool helps our children to practice their concentration and impulse control. And, with close guidance, they show that they are up to the task. They cut the wood in a safe fashion. Little by little, the assembly of the house was coming along.

Placing the Child-Built Play House

After the job was finished, we found a great spot in the courtyard where the house will reside. Now, on to framing the house. And, of course, the Monsters still have not forgotten their grand plans that we have pinned on our inspiration board. While working, Julian made sure to let me know, “Teacher Steven, we’re still going to put a slide on the house, right?”


An Emergent Curriculum – What It Is and Why It’s Important

At C5 Children’s School, we offer an Emergent Curriculum, because it provides the best overall results for children of all ages. In our school, the children’s ages are from infancy through pre-kindergarten. An Emergent Curriculum means: What comes from the children is the curriculum. So, at our school, we say, The curriculum walks in the door every day.

An emergent curriculum involves the whole child; meaning the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical realms of development and learning.

What does that mean in practice? We provide rich, diverse resources and low key, respectful support to children’s emerging interests and their various in-depth explorations and multi-media expressions. We observe to discover what the children are interested in and build on those inclinations, interests, and fascinations to help them learn naturally and holistically as powerful individual learners and as effective members in successful learning groups.

Children initiate the explorations and projects. They explore and express themselves in their own way and in their own time. Each exploration or project can take weeks or months, depending on the children’s sustained fascination, and can morph into new lines of inquiry and investigation.

For example, for infants, we support them developing as they wish and when they wish; without interferrance. The environment is designed for and fitted out with a variety of beautiful elements for them to explore. When an infant is ready and inclined, they reach out and engage those things that are a match for their current interest and ability. A specific example is in the area of whole body physical development. Infants in an emergent curriculum at C5 are their own initiators and move in the time and manner that they are ready for in crawling, raising up, sitting up, pulling up, cruising, and walking. Because of this, the children are stronger, more flexible, and more self-confident in their early physical development. They have also learned that they are the main determinants of their own successful learning and growth.

For toddlers, we observe what things they bring into the classroom or choose there to play with, and we help them to go farther and deeper with those explorations. For example, in one toddler classroom, an interest in playing with cardboard boxes evolved into parents and teachers bringing in boxes of many sizes that resulted, after weeks of exploring, testing, and taping them together, into a large maze of tunnels and towers.

For preschool and pre-k aged children, we observe and listen to their expressed interests and support them in their gathering of information and other resources to fuel their in-depth explorations and comprehensive projects. For example, an interest in where the water in the classroom came from — led to exploring the pipes under the sink — and looking at building plans for the water supply — and mini field trips to the street to examine utility hole covers — and a classroom visit by a civil engineer who showed them slides of water sources and systems — and a trip to the building basement to see the pipes — and building their own simulated utility holes and hole covers like they saw in the streets out of large tubes that they climbed into — and experimenting with joining PVC pipes and testing water flow with gravity and pumps. The children worked on that project off and on for over eight months and intensely for over an hour each school day for about four months.

An emergent curriculum for children of all ages can also easily include cultural elements from children’s families, as the children bring them in and/or accept them as part of their exploratory activities. A example of this was in a preschool classroom when the children had cooked many types of breakfast meals over several weeks and wanted something more challenging. In response, the parents of a child with heritage from India brought in ingredients for cooking Chicken Tikka Masala.

Exploring and expressing are the fundamental strategies in an emergent curriculum. We build learning around what the children want to explore, and the learning process involves gently guiding them to explore further and getting them to express, in words, gestures, processes, and materials, when they are able, what they want, what they’re doing, and why. Thus, exploring and expressing reinforce each other.  and build individual and group cohesiveness.

In emergent curriculum learning groups, children learn to accept, understand, and appreciate the interests, skills, working styles, temperaments, and resources of the other children. Their unique offerings are aggregated into fascinating multi-dimensional projects and their individual efforts lead to more comprehensive compelling results.

When paired with in-depth explorations and a project approach, as in the examples above, an emergent curriculum is a powerful learning tool, because it is child-initiated, child-centered, and child-directed; with adult facilitation. By harnessing children’s own interests, motivation, and energy, it allows for and encourages them to determine their own learning direction, pace, focus, and rewards.

The role of our classroom staff and children’s family members is to be alert to what intrigues the children and to provide rich resources in line with their inclinations and interests to support their initiatives, persistence and adaptations.


A Few Benefits Among the Many

More meaningful learning and development occurs than in a typical school setting, and it lasts a lifetime, because it is connected to what is important to the child rather than what is arbitrarily imposed by others.

The result of an emergent curriculum is that children absorb a wide range of information and significant social, emotional, and physical development thanks to their having explored many sources, materials, and processes.

An emergent curriculum develops an appreciation for and skills in working with diversity in all its forms, including:

  • Learning Styles
  • Temperament
  • Body Types
  • Life Orientations
  • World View
  • Family Cultures
  • Skill Sets
  • Knowledge Bases
  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Belief Systems
  • Work and Learning Spaces
  • Environments
  • Tools
  • Materials
  • Furnishings
  • Processes
  • Hundred Languages of Children

It also develops a strong foundation for emotional intelligence and a significant understanding of a range of emotions, with corresponding effects on self-image, self-worth, and social success.

Parents of children enrolled at C5 children’s School report that they observe outside of school that their children, in contrast to others, demonstrate increased: ease in social settings, inquisitiveness, explorations with comprehensiveness and dexterity, verbal skills, and expressiveness in various media.

Approximately 98% of families with children going to private and public kindergarten from C5 report that their children meet and exceed traditional standards for their age group and for entering kindergarten.

To learn more about our curriculum, click here.


Using Certain Language at C5 Children’s School

Why Careful Language Use is Important

  • Creates a climate of positive support for children
  • Provides a sanctuary for stress free learning
  • Allows for, encourages, and embraces differences
  • Is respectful and egalitarian
  • Opens up and nurtures highly productive and creative possibilities
  • Models positive alternatives
  • Increases vocabulary

Language is powerful

Explaining how sewers work using positive languageCommonly accepted language has the potential for great influence

We want to promote language that contributes to developing attitudes, skills, knowledge, and continued experiences in line with our philosophy and preferred practices. Our approach also references building on the traits desired for children at C5 Children’s School that include –

Independent thinkers
High self-esteem
Powerful learners
Analytical and critical
Multiply intelligent
Competent in 100 languages
Socially skilled
Respectful of others
Community minded

Words and Terms that We Avoid

All staff members are asked to be consistent in avoiding the following uses of language at all times in speaking and writing and to adopt the proposed alternatives or something very similar.

Good ─ It is a generic praising term. We avoid praising, in addition to rewarding, disapproving, and punishing. The term “good” is often used with the best intentions. However, it misses opportunities to provide information that the child can use later to replicate the behavior, in addition to being recognized and supported for something at the moment.

Consider this example, “Good job.”

Instead, Give the Other Objective Details.

─ It is minimizing, diminishing, and sometimes too limiting.

Consider this example, “I just wanted to help out.”

Use more affirmative, assertive, or informative language.

Should ─ It is pejorative and negatively imposing. It expresses duty or necessity that we want to avoid imposing on children.

Consider this example, “You should be doing better than you are doing.”

Use some other non-judgmental, non-condescending, non-demanding term or phrase and one that is more supportive or guiding.

─ It is too tentative.

Consider this example, “I could come if I have the time on that day.”

Be more definite and affirmative. Use “can” “will” or “must.”

Need ─ This is often projected onto others or expressed as a confusing condition. It is easy for the language in our field in social services to become permeated with needy expressions and to be thinking of people as needy.

Consider this example, “You need to have your jacket on to go outside.”

Instead, express yourself as wanting or requiring something or qualifying your comment when it is referencing the internal state of another person. Consider an alternative, such as, “You have to have your jacket on to go out in the cold.” Or, state the benefit of doing what is desired, such as, “You can put on your jacket and be warm to go outside.”

No (and all of its derivatives: not, don’t, can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, didn’t, hadn’t, etc.) ─ These can easily contribute greatly to creating a toxic climate of negativity and arbitrary adult power.

Consider this example, “She said that she is not going to share it with you.” Or, “She is not coming back until after lunch.” Or, “I don’t like it when you …”

Provide, instead, what is desired, possible, or likely in order to create a climate of positives, possibilities, encouragement, and a sanctuary for supporting optimal learning and developing.

─ It sets up a harsh contrast. Sometimes a strong or negative contrast is unnecessarily made.

Consider these examples, “She wanted the toy, but you wanted it too.” Or, “You want to go outside, but the other children want to stay inside.”

Use “and yet,” “however,” instead,” or “versus,” or simply state the different notions and process them as choices to be carefully considered. Use a positive or neutral conjunction when there is not an opposition or a contrast to be made.

I ─ Using “I” messages is too self-referential when asking children to do something, giving an opinion, making a declaration, or expressing a feeling.

Consider this example, “I am not going to let you bite other people.”

Instead, keep yourself out of the exchange and help the children to focus on their feelings, opinions, actions, etc. and to understand the intrinsic and other benefits for them, from their point of view, for doing something. Our objective is to help them to know and feel that they are respected by us and to become more competent in independently resolving issues themselves.

We, Us, or Our ─ These terms are misrepresentative when you are not directly involved as the others are in the action, situation, or concept.

Consider these examples, “We have to try to rest now.” Or, “It’s time for all of us to line up.” Or, “This is the way we write our name.”

Use terms that relate specifically to whom you are referring. For instance, Use, “You have to try to rest now.” Or, “It’s time for all children to line up.” Or, “This is the way you might write your name.”

Repeated Use of Generic References
─ Repeating the use of generic terms like “Parents” or “staff” is impersonal and distancing.

Instead, set the premise by mentioning to whom you are referring. Then, use the more specific, personable term thereafter; for example, “you” or “each of you.” If you are referring to one individual or a small group, use their names.

Cute ─ This term is often meant as appreciation for a child or children or for what they have done. However, it is not very respectful of the children or of the value of what they are actually learning or the way they are developing.

Instead, point out or describe the specific and important things that are happening.

Weakness ─ We avoid the term and concept of weakness. Instead, we believe that we all have strengths in varying degrees. Some are less than others. If a certain capacity is required and a person does not have enough, it can be under-productive, and we call it an “under-strength.” It can be increased. If a strength is being applied more than is necessary, it is excessive, and we consider it to be counterproductive.

Instead, talk about how a person can build the strengths that they want and are required and how they can work to apply only as much capacity as is useful and productive in any given situation and no more or no less.

Art ─ We avoid the term “art” when referring to children’s work, as in “art work,” or to certain materials in the program, such as “art materials,” or apply it to any area of our curriculum. Since children learn holistically, we work with them that way, and we integrate the use of many materials, processes, and concepts that would traditionally be associated with certain disciplines or fields, such as the fields of art, science, math, and literature.

Instead, use the terms “children’s work” or simply “materials.”

Feelings ─ We will be careful when using the terms related to “feeling” We consider these to be primarily emotions, body sensations, and general unspecified dispositions. If we have a thought, belief, desire, or a conceptual notion or attitude, we label it as such and say “I think …” or “I want …” or “I believe …” Or, we state the outcome of our thinking, such as, “It’s time for you to come in now.” Rather than, “I feel it’s time for you to come in now.”

What C5 Can Do for SF Parents and Families

Parents and Extended Family Members,

You can feel safe and secure in knowing that your child will be in one of the highest quality, safest, most secure, family-interactive, and parent-supported programs anywhere. You can be confident that we will answer any questions that you might have about our program and outline the benefits that can accrue to your child and family.

You will discover at C5 Children’s School:

Your child will experience exceptionally high quality learning and development. Compare us in detail to other programs.

For example, WestEd and the California Department of Education film interactions at C5 that they say they cannot get anywhere else in order to use them in training for California teachers and programs. Talk to us in detail about why this is so and how your child will benefit. Learn about how other parents have experienced our program.


You will have extensive information in a variety of ways about your child and her or his learning and development and about what happens in the program.

For example, when you are enrolled, you have access to our world famous private, secure website, Connections, that has a wealth of information about the program and your child’s classroom activities on a daily basis. There are also available daily interpersonal discussion, notes, phone, and electronic communications.


You and your immediate and extended family will be involved in fascinating ways in supporting your child’s learning and in enjoying many aspects of the program yourselves.

For example, you can give your extended family members access to our private website, and there are at least 60 different ways that you and your family can interact with the program.



You will flow in smoothly each day with special access into our unusually secure and aesthetic facilities.

For example, there are video cameras throughout the public spaces, uniformed building entrance screening officers, and sworn, armed officers at both centers: California Highway Patrol Officers at our CA State Building Center and San Francisco County Sheriffs at our SF City Building Center. The entrances to our centers are also locked, requiring your electronic ID key card access. See our outdoor play areas with fruit, vegetable, and flower gardening that children help tend.

You can expect your child to meet and exceed the typical standards for entering kindergarten.

He or she will also have become a powerful independent learner and effective group member, with strong self-confidence, exceptional self-sufficiency, and high self-esteem.

More information on family participation in our program is available here.

You are also welcome to contact us to discuss your child and family and details of our program. Main Office: 415-703-1277.

Winter Cultural Highlights

We are finishing our annual Winter Cultural Highlights presentations. Every family and staff member in our program makes one. The total is almost 200 families and staff members. Each presentation lasts about 15-20 minutes. They share with their child’s learning group some aspects of their family history, heritage, culture, and/or daily routines. They present in various ways. They include pictures, artifacts, songs, dances, clothing, food, and stories. We learn more about each other, and children and the rest of us enjoy the rich array of diverse people and cultures in our program. We document all of the sessions and keep them for continued reflection, enjoyment, and extended learning.

Recent examples in the Mighty Oak Classroom were:
James’ family brought in good luck oranges, red envelopes, books, and a lion head for Chinese New Year. All of the children tried on the lion head. They read all of the books and opened the envelopes with money in them. The next day, they ate all of the oranges.
Winter Cultural Highlights - ChineseWinter Cultural Highlights - Chinese 2Winter Cultural Highlights - Chinese 3

Marcello’s family introduced the children to an Italian Snake Dance. The dance is about a snake who is missing its tail. The children made a long line and became part of a snake. Then, they went all around the classroom.
Winter Cultural Highlights Marcello 1Winter Cultural Highlights Marcello 2Winter Cultural Highlights Marcello 3

C5 Family Food Experiences Bring More Diversity in the Classroom Throughout the Year

Every family takes a turn during the school year and brings in amazing food that represents their family fare routinely and/or culturally. A wide range of foods that are prepared to taste or ingredients to process with or for the children are the norm. Each family signs up for their 15-20 minute session at the beginning of the school year and conducts the session with their child’s learning group or classroom. All 145 families take a turn. Most classrooms also cook on their own and explore various foods a number of times during the school year.

Alternatives to Celebrating Holidays are Powerful at C5!

We enthusiastically encourage families to fully embrace holidays that are meaningful to them outside of our program and facilities.

Within the program, it is difficult to equitably treat each holiday that families might want to acknowledge. Our initial research showed over 3,000 special days, events, and holidays.

However, we do celebrate each child’s birthday and key milestones and endings of projects and significant explorations. Those events usually include special planning, presentations, displays, demonstrations, decorations, food, music, singing, parents, visitors, and extended family members.

In addition, many of our other special events include celebrations and are part of our annual program, such as: Summer Book & Box; Winter Cultural Highlights; Fall Family Festival; Festival of Learning Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Exhibits, Public Demonstrations, and Gala Evening Party; Family Food Experiences, Potlucks; and, Costume Days.

We hope that your holidays are full, frequent, and rewarding!

Our Fall Family Festival was a Success!

The Fall Family Festival Theme was “Farm to School”
November 6, 2015, 5:00-6:30 p.m.

Our enrolled community celebrated at the festival with displays featuring healthy food, farming, transportation, nutrition, cooking, catering, serving, tasting, and enjoying a wide variety of food, processes, products, and family cultures.

Planning —

The festival had many featuresThe Head Parents from the classrooms, the School Support Committee, and several staff members planed extensive decorations of pumpkins, squash, grains, balloons, and fall influenced lighting effects. They planned for and the families reveled in food demonstrations, a large potluck, music, dancing, and balloon chasing. Approximately 300 people attended.



More Preparations —

The festival food was deliciousChildren in the classrooms were cooking and canning for months before theFestival food choices were many festival. Some of their dishes included, canned beans, pumpkin fries, crab puffs, and carrot muffins. The Pre-K classroom brought some of their canned beans for people to taste. There were displays of children’s cooking in classrooms, recipes, and research on healthy food and farming. And, of course, the families prepared a huge variety of dishes from many cultures for everyone to eat.

Caterer —

Our caterer donated a new bread for us to taste and testOur caterer, Chefables, contributed some of their new bread and desert dishesOur caterer donated new deserts for us to taste and test for us to sample during the event. They even delivered them and set them up. They also used our feedback to fine tune the items for regular distribution to the other 100 schools and programs whom they serve.


The Pumpkin Patch! —

Great fun in the Fall Family Festival Pumpkin PatchAlways a popular feature, was the pumpkin patch, where all ages of childrenGreat music and movement at the festival found their favorite pumpkin, hay bale, straw bunch, small squash, or basket with which to play out their fantasy or to extend their explorations of the offerings there.



Music and Dancing —
Slow festival music, scarves, and llullabiess
Music and movement at the Fall Family Festival
We always have an abbreviated Music Together session that is very similar to the ones that our on-staff music teachers conduct every week for every classroom. We sang the Hello Song, the Goodbye Song, and about five other favorites from the current collection in between. There is also a play-along section in the middle where we get out a wide range of musical instruments and scarves.

Big Finish —

Instrument play is a feature of Music Together at the festivalThe music and dancing session was near the end, as usual. Singing theThe crowd enereticall engaged the music and movement at the festival Goodbye Song was how the festival officially ended, as usual. Then, most of the families there helped to clean up and take down the decorations. Guess which ones were the most interesting to come down. The balloons, of course! All 200 balloons that did not pop in the process were claimed for trips home.

Everyone was excited about the event and talked about the next program-wide activity that was coming in just two months. It was, Winter Cultural Highlights!

C5 Hosts Music Together Teacher Training

C5 will host the internationally acclaimed Music Together three day teacher training for the Bay Region at the end of January. We will also put four of our musically competent teachers into the comprehensive training. That will result in our having nine in-house music teachers trained by Music Together.

The training lasts 27 hours over three days, January 29-31, 2016.

Participants will discover a new way of thinking about and relating to children and music. They can expect to:

  • Learn the four points of the Music Together philosophy and how early childhood research supports their curriculum
  • Observe three full-length demonstration classes, complete with parents and children, taught by experienced trainers
  • Learn a new repertoire, including songs, rhythmic rhymes, instrument and prop activities, and movement activities
  • Practice leading song and movement activities
  • Learn about children’s tonal and rhythm development and how to support the young child’s musical growth
  • Learn lesson-planning and classroom management strategies
  • Learn how to assess children’s music development, and communicate this information to parents and caregivers
  • Receive the trainer’s personal attention, coaching, and feedback
  • Meet and have fun with others who love children and music

C5 has hosted many training sessions for the San Francisco Bay Area teachers. The Songs & Skills sessions lasted one full day and covered 1) all of the songs in the current collection, led by a master teacher from Music Together, and 2) concepts and skill development in working with groups of children and their parents.

The other Three Day Teacher Training sessions that we have hosted have also helped music programs in the area to prepare their teachers for wok in their programs open to the public. Many families who have enrolled in our full-day, full-year early learning and development program have already taken the Music Together program in public. Then, they continue to get the full, three collections per year program at C5 as part of tuition.

There is more information on the Music Together website.

C5 Instructional Staff Takes World Famous Course

All of our instructional staff took the comprehensive 18 week online course offered by world famous Program for Infant-Toddler Care (PITC). It is a collaboration of WestEd and the California Department of Education. It includes extensive online interactions and discussions, in-depth reading, embedded practice in classrooms, and video conferencing.

One half of our 32 member teaching staff was in the cohort taking the 2015 fall session. The other half joined the cohort taking the course in the winter session. As new staff members come on board, they schedule to take the very special course.

Course topics include an exploration of the different temperament types; stages of social-emotional development; development of self-esteem, security, and social competence; socialization and guidance; program policies that best support healthy social-emotional development; learning, culture, and families; early brain development and learning; discoveries of infancy; culture; partnerships with families; and, working with children with special needs.

Our Center Directors and Site Supervisor have taken  PITC’s world famous Train the Trainer courses in Berkeley and San Diego. They are conducted onsite with approximately 12 trainers and 150 professionals at a time and comprising Modules 1-4 and lasting 18 weeks. Two of our directors have also completed additional training at PITC Directors Academy conferences and conducted in-house PITC-related training for our entire C5 Children’s School staff. Our Director of Learning has also taken the basic and advanced training on programming for and work with Special Needs children and families. The basic part of that training is considered Module Five of the PITC series.

PITC Directors Academies are offered every year and involve the very latest in their world famous research and practices relating to early childhood learning and development. Ongoing topics cover Brain Development, Multi-Cultural Influences, The Importance of Open-Ended and Risk-Taking Play, Engaging and Supporting Families, Promoting Equity Balance: Black Boys in Early Learning Programs, Immigrant Families and Belonging: Building a Sense of Home, Family Partnerships and Culture, and Transformational Family Engagement: Families Strengthening Families.

Visit the Program for Infant-Toddler Care (PITC) website: