The following are descriptions of the principles that guide our preparation as professionals; our planning with staff, parents, and distant colleagues; our actions with children; our problem-solving; our review of our work; and, our continuous improvement.
The Image of the Child: Our Image of the Child is very comprehensive and includes that they are capable at birth to be powerful learners and developers; partners in their own evolution; highly perceptive; vital; energetic; curious; exploratory; adventurous; open-minded; adaptive; expressive; makers of meaning; innovators of new views of the world and the things and people in it and of solutions to problems. They are also rapidly developing physically; deserve respect; they are teachers; co-creators of their own learning; joyful; fearless; open-minded; problem-solvers; have potential to do anything; expressive; creative; expert learners; unique; live in the moment; fearless dreamers; energetic; curious; honest; adventurous; sensitive; sponges; shapers of culture; emulators of all that surrounds them; and, significant influencers on the insights and learning of their adult collaborators.
Partnership with Children: We recognize that relationships between adults and children involve the exercise of power as well as the expression of caring, friendliness, and love. We believe that it is necessary to be especially mindful about how adult power is used and maintained, as well as children’s resilience and resistance to that power. Using this approach, we work with children as their very caring, gentle, polite, and skillful partners. Our aim is to find out what is on their mind from their point of view, rather than using our power as adults to control, criticize, manage, or manipulate.
Joy in Everything: We believe in having joy in every aspect of our interactions. The best learning occurs when we are positive and energized about our efforts and the results they might bring. The first stage in learning is the affect test. If a child senses that the environment and the relationships are safe and friendly, they will be receptive to further interactions and advance to higher levels of cognition. If the conditions are pleasing, aesthetic, and in line with their personal interests and fascinations, they can easily become excited about participating.
Image of the Teacher: Our teachers are: formally educated; highly trained professionals; adhering to the philosophy and values of the school, applying them daily; experienced in life and the field of early childhood development; enthusiastically engaging children as partners in embracing the complexities of learning through many media and processes as children explore and express their interests; creators of excellent learning experiences and environments that are compelling, rich in choices, and function as another teacher; superb assessors, documenters, planners, and facilitators of optimal learning; including parents in many aspects of the process; involved in permanent professional development; and, effective advocates for children, families, and their profession.
The Processes of Exploring and Expressing: The focus of learning emanates from children and their interests, fascinations, and family customs, culture, and heritage. The process takes a multitude of forms that include all of the senses in careful and deep examination of their inner world and all of the elements in the surrounding environments, including the dynamics among them. It also opens up to an unending array of forms of expression, called languages, that include drawing, painting, sculpting, dancing, talking, singing, dramatic play, making music, the use of light, nurturing others, and, the syntheses of these and the addition of approaches and symbol systems as yet unknown. The daily routines are Amazement and Excitement, Marveling, Concentrating, Inventing, Sharing, Transforming, Disorienting, Reflecting, Imitating, Surprising, Observing, Hypothesizing, Communicating, Contemplating, Risk-taking, Creating, Connecting, Appreciating, and Celebrating.
The Role of Time: Great emphasis is placed on the pace of the activities, the demeanor of the adults, and the arrangement of elements in the environment that support being in tune with the rhythms of the children. The time taken for explorations and expressions has an organic life that matches the immediate and recurring interests of the children. Any one emergent theme can last for months, if children desire. A priority and the necessary time are also given to the study of effective processes of relating to each other and to the value of bringing along all members of the learning group in understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the unique differences of each contributing individual. New possibilities are explored, ideas build upon each other, and children revisit earlier concepts, experiences, and work to gain new insights and inspiration.
Community of Learners: We help children to be very effective group members and for groups to be very powerful learning teams. Each group has the potential for and experiences many of the dynamics that occur in communities outside of the school. Each member has special social and motivational requirements and often goes through typical stages of growth and development with the group. One stage is to be accepted and to be 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 in the context of their Learning Group.
The Role of the Environment: Our classroom environments play a very important role in our programs that are inspired in part by the pre-primary schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The classrooms are designed to be lovely, compelling, and inviting for learning. They are also equipped with many types of beautiful materials that are accessible to children. In this way, the classroom can act as another teacher. Children’s finished work and work in progress is displayed prominently on walls, tables, screens, and in binders and folders that the children often reference. They also use laptop computers in each classroom to research their interests and develop new ideas for exploration and diverse representation.
An Emergent Curriculum: Children’s interests and fascinations are the primary vehicle for immediate, complex, comprehensive, and sustained learning. What emerges from each child becomes the curriculum. What emerges from each learning group are also opportunities for focus on real issues that have meaning for the children. The heart of our program is both relationships that are respectful, trusting, collaborative, caring, and gentle and individual and group interests and fascinations that are pursued with enthusiasm. Teachers skillfully facilitate explorations of children’s interests and carefully introduce provocations only when necessary to stimulate additional investigations and promote a wide range of expressions that can also lead to developing new interests and further explorations.
A Project Approach: Children’s interests often lead to in-depth explorations that can last a few days or many months, depending on their sustaining interest. These usually turn into projects that include prolonged questioning, wide-ranging research, visits from experts, and multi-media explorations and expressions of their individual and combined concepts as they emerge. The projects evolve organically and take on many forms with usually multi-faceted presentations, dioramas, and social interactions.
The 100 Languages of Children: Children have over a hundred languages with which to explore and express themselves in their holistic and comprehensive learning and development. A few typical examples are drawing, painting, sculpturing, writing, speaking, singing, instrumental music, light & shadow, photography, film-making, color, dancing, body gestures, fluids, patterns, graphic symbol systems, and spatial relationships. When they have the diverse materials, tools, equipment, and skillful and caring support, they learn and develop optimally, exceeding common standards of achievement and social success that are usually applied.
The Image of the Parent and Family: Parents and family members are essential partners in a comprehensive collaboration to build and sustain a dynamic and rich learning and development environment for their children and the children of other parents and families. They hold crucial information, dispositions, and other resources that make the joint effort meaningful and worthwhile. They play a special role in supporting the children and staff that includes giving of themselves and receiving from others in the community of learners. They are also advocates for young children and the program in liaison with the broad community.
The Importance of Relationships: We believe that relationships that are respectful, gentle, caring, collaborative, invigorating, diverse, imaginative, and adventurous are at the heart of learning. Helping others to learn and grow is very much a part of loving. Mutual and equitable support and influence is invited and encouraged to flow in all directions; including among children, staff, parents, family members, and community members.
Image of the School: We consider the school as everybody’s house, a neighborhood of families, a place of research, a cultivator of diversity of many types, a sanctuary for children to learn and develop, and an opportunity for children to reach their full potential and create a new culture for the world. Parents, family members, neighbors of the school, experts in several disciplines, and influential educators from many areas of the field all participate actively and frequently in the school to produce an optimal learning environment and a strong program for C5 children. We offer what we do for others who work with young children to examine, debate, and reflect upon if they wish.
The Image of the Community: Our community is an integral part of our school and program. There are a myriad of ways that we productively interact with our whole community. We exchange information, services, materials, facilities, and share events. In part, it is composed of parents and family members, neighbors in our buildings and nearby homes and businesses, friends of our school, professional colleagues, many service providers, government agencies, the media, and the general public. A few examples are weekly stories from Tim the librarian, visiting artists from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Artists in Residence, parent work days, annual used book sale, family food experiences, Summer Book and Box, Winter Cultural Highlights, annual picnics and potlucks, bake sales, cash donations, conference facilities, and the annual Festival of Learning with its exhibits, seminar, public demonstrations, raffle, and gala evening party.