Our curriculum emphasizes building strong interpersonal relationships, and we consider all children from birth to be competent, creative, and powerful beings. They are already powerful learners, and they are constantly making meaning out of their environment as their bodies grow and develop.
Project Based Approach
Our methods result in comprehensive caring and nurturing for each child and in learning that is appropriate for each child’s age and developmental levels. Our teaching strategies rely primarily on an emergent curriculum, with in-depth explorations for all ages and including a project approach as children get older and enter our preschool and pre-kindergarten programs.
It is based on the continuous examination of each child’s developmental levels and readiness and reinforces each child exploring and expressing their emerging inclinations, fascinations, interests, and enthusiasms. The program includes a rich materials environment, varied groupings of children, and a team of exceptionally well educated, trained, and experienced professionals to accomplish the desired development and learning.
We are inspired by several world-wide best programs and practices, including the pre-primary schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy; Pistoia, Italy; and, the constructivist, social-constructivist, and systems thinking theories of John Dewy, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Howard Gardner, Loris Malaguzzi, Carlina Rinaldi, and C5 Children’s School’s theory of Partnership with Children and Community of Learners that stem from the work of Richard and Patricia Schmuck. We also use methods developed by the California Program for Infant Toddler Care and Magda Gerber’s RIE methods.
The Environment as Another Teacher
We maintain an environment for child development and learning that is joyful, exciting, caring, aesthetic, compelling, dependable, safe, and rich with creativity, surprises, and the promise of great potential.
Our staff facilitates individual and group development by ensuring that children pursue stimulating learning experiences and environments that foster physical growth, emotional well-being, social relationships, creativity, and intellectual development. The daily activities are guided by highly qualified teachers, and the outcomes are regularly reported to parents through documentation and display of children’s work, anecdotes from the professional staff, journals and portfolios for each child, and formal and informal parent conferences.
Infants and Young Toddlers
The infants and toddlers receive concentrated nurturing and care combined with daily attention to individual and small group activities that focus on sensory, physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. Your child is assigned to a primary teacher and team who will be the primary caregivers and teachers of your child during the first 18 months of your child’s life. The result is consistency for each child, a foundation of basic trust, and a climate of encouragement. Our program is designed to address the unique requirements of each child, while emphasizing movement, play, manipulation, exploration, expression, reflection, socialization, and autonomy. Children have freedom in choosing activities and are facilitated in proceeding at their own pace. They learn according to their own individual capabilities and enjoy a sense of spontaneity and open potential within a secure framework of daily routines and adult support. Elements that reinforce our approach include sensory toys and materials, crawling and climbing structures, sounds and music, expressive media, living plants and animals, language development, dramatic play, stories, and outdoor experiences.
The older toddlers and preschool children also receive constant care and nurturing, while continuing skill development in personal hygiene, toileting, and helping to care for their environment. They are assisted in exploring and expressing themselves individually and in various learning groups. They have access to a wide range of established learning areas and activities at the Preschool Center that include: stories and reading; dramatic play; drawing and painting; language development and writing; water and sand tables; sounds and a music program; live animals; household; blocks; earth ware clay and playdough; group meeting; math; science; light and shadows; live plants and garden; projections; sculpture; sensory; the store; movement and dance; outdoor play yards; familiarization with technology, such as computers, video, and digital photography; and, exploring the city environment and Nature. In addition, we often have special visitors who share their knowledge, experiences, skills, and fascinating items from their lives and work.
Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten
Our preschool and pre-kindergarten children develop skills in effective group processes, powerful inquiry techniques, a comprehensive project approach, an appreciation for and skills in working with differences, familiarity with a wide range of materials, tools, and processes, use of appropriate technologies, strong literacy capabilities, and a love of learning while achieving self-confidence, self-sufficiency, and high self-esteem. Our older children typically meet and exceed the standards for entering kindergarten.
Artists in Residence
A special component of our program is the parent initiated Artist in Residence program. It brings in parents, staff members, and friends of C5 who have interests, skills, experiences, and marvelous spirit to share with the children and staff. An Artist in Residence is scheduled as volunteers are secured. They bring in their instruments, video tapes, CDs, samples of their work, stories of their work and lives, demonstrations, opportunities for children to get their hands on professional instruments, materials, equipment, and tools. Examples of previous Artists in Residence include adults who bring in and share their guitar, bluegrass banjo, concert harp, jazz bass, sewing, spinning, painting and collage, cooking, word play, computer graphics, grand piano, and opera.
Over the years, we have built up our music program with training in California from the Music Together organization that is based in Princeton, New Jersey and has programs world-wide. We conduct special half-hour music sessions each week throughout the year for children in their learning groups that focus on selections from the Music Together family song books and matching CDs. Approximately every 15 weeks, we change to another of the nine Music Together collections. The families each get a parent manual that explains how children develop music competence over the years and a CD and music book for the collection we are currently using. Enjoyment begins immediately! Children are guided in developing music competency and appreciation while they sing the songs, play a wide range of musical instruments, and experience dramatic movement and dance that complement the diverse musical offerings. Parents are invited and some attend many of the sessions. A program-wide potluck is usually scheduled near the end of each collection where families and staff get together, dine on fascinating food from our diverse families, and sing and dance to the songs everyone has been experiencing for the last four months.
Creative Movement and Dance
In addition to wonderful movement experiences throughout the week, we also focus on creative movement and dance for a half an hour each week in every classroom. We use the themes of the children’s in-class explorations and projects as motivation and vehicles for engaging in exciting movement activities. The individual, partnerships, and group experiences help the children to learn through creative expression about their bodies, about relating to others, and about language and attitudes related to creative movement and dance.
Effective Group Processes
One of our guiding principles is that every learning group is a Community of Learners. That means each group has the potential for and experiences many of the dynamics that occur in communities outside of the C5 school. Children and adults who are in groups have special motivations and go through typical stages of growth and development with the group during the time that they are together. We pay attention to these patterns, motivations, and potentials at C5 and use them to guide our facilitation of optimal learning and development for each individual child and for each learning group as a whole. One area of interest and concern that children have is to be accepted, understood, and appreciated for who they are. Another is to have influence in their social and physical environments. Another is to be able to accomplish tasks that are satisfying, while alone, as well as with others in the context of their learning group.
Powerful Learning Groups and Powerful Individual Learners
A large body of research and practice supports this notion of how groups work. We agree with most of the research and practitioners who say that when children are working closely with teachers who are trained to address these three basic areas of motivation and development in the learning groups in the classrooms that the children will progress faster and to a higher degree than they will in educational and developmental programs that do not address these directly.
There is no trade-off between facilitating the optimal development of individual children and facilitating the development of the learning group. Both are very important. They reinforce each other, and they each deserve thorough and continuous attention. The ultimate desired outcome is that every child, as a unique individual, will learn and develop to her or his highest potential. We believe that this will be possible in large part because C5 is constantly learning and improving as an organization and each child is participating in learning groups that are each operating as an effective Community of Learners.
The children’s sensitivities, skills, insights, and knowledge are built from their marvelous ability to continually pursue their individual interests and to creatively explore and express themselves. Through an effective collaboration with parents, we can help the children at C5 to develop the capacity to continue their own progress, confidently succeed in future school settings and later in life, and make significant contributions to their families, communities, and society as a whole.
Special Interest Groups
Groups of children naturally form around special interests and can be briefly active or sustain an interest and be facilitated by one or more teachers on an ongoing basis. Groups can form at any time and be active at any time that the children are working. Members of the group can come from various learning groups and different ages within a classroom. Some interest groups develop complex projects and continue to work together for weeks or months. They can meet each day at project time, later in the afternoon, or as often as they and the teachers can arrange it.
Providing for and facilitating Interest Groups enables children to benefit from work on similar interests with other children who may or may not be in their structured Learning Groups and who may be of different ages. The mixing of interest groups, learning groups, free play times, and one-on-one times with teachers is a vital combination and variety of learning and development strategies that enhances individual and group growth every day.
The Afternoon Program is a natural organizing structure for interest groups. Children can develop a common fascination there and/or use the time for meeting around their own individual interests. Most classrooms have planned an Afternoon Program that features special activities that repeat on the same day each week. The activities are usually planned in collaboration by the children and the teachers. The activities are offered somewhere in the classroom, and children can elect to participate or not, as they wish.
The focus is often derived from children’s current ongoing projects, that usually receive dedicated time every morning, or from their expressed interests. Often, individual children or whole learning groups will want to revisit work on their main project in the afternoon.
A Typical Afternoon Program
Hundreds of interests are explored over time in the afternoons. A few examples unrelated to ongoing projects have been:
Mondays: Working with Clay or “Colored Lights and Shadows”
Tuesdays: “Painting on Unusual Surfaces or Water Play and Explorations
Wednesday: “Photography” or “Film-Making”
Thursday: “Assemblies — Constructions, Collages, and Crumpled Objects or “Disassembly”
Fridays: Disco Dancing, with special effects lighting or “Student-Made Board Games”