Dignity and respect
Self knowledge and acceptance
Creative play, learning, and sharing
Exploration of the arts
The Growing Places Experience
Play School GalleryClick to enlarge photos.See images »
There are two fairly universal responses to being at Growing Places: “I didn’t know I could do that!”, and a long sigh of relief. One walks into the building to see children’s artwork and lovely murals on the wall. Beautiful, soothing music (world, classical, new age) drifts through, and the stress just seems to drain away. (There is a noticeable difference in the level of contentment and focus in the children when the music is not playing as they arrive!)
The roomy environment is designed to give children opportunities to be involved in a variety of ways, offering specific areas for intellectual activities (puzzles, games, exploration); creative development (art); active play (balls and hoola hoops, musical activity, make believe); and relaxation with the quiet comfort of books and casual conversation. “This feels like home,” sighs one child contentedly.
Growing Places highlights the beauty that exists in our natural world. We feel that children need to be exposed to and made aware of the beauty in their world through music, beautiful art, and nature. Its calming influence helps lead to self-knowledge and open mindedness. Self-knowledge leads to self-acceptance. A clear sense of personal talents and preferences leads to greater ability for self-nurturing, and less likelihood to seek outside gratification through the use of chemicals and other destructive behavior.
Units and broad themes are seasonal and based on children’s interests. There may be an initial plan for the day, but if the children become involved with a particular project of their own choosing, the focal point for the day may change dramatically.
While sequenced activities are scheduled so the children know what to expect, flexibility is critical as needs and interests of the children are identified: a large block of time may be required to complete a certain activity, or it may definitely not time for a story! Reading, play and snack time are the constants in our activities, around which music, art, field trips, and other activities revolve.
Each group of children has it’s own personality, and where some groups thrive on make-believe, others love to make music, hang out with a good book, or do explorations in science. During the first several weeks of a new term the emphasis is on free play, allowing the children to get to know one another and their environment. The teacher observes, mediates as necessary, and identifies child and group needs and preferences.
During free play, in an effort to minimize the distraction of too many choices, there is a select group of toys and activities placed around the room. The children help decide which activities will be available the next time they come. Different groupings of toys allow for more creativity in the use of them (e.g. train tracks with dinosaurs, or pattern blocks with plastic critters). Rotation of toys allows for new excitement when playthings that have not been seen for a while are made available once again. As the children mature and progress developmentally, they are able to use the toys and puzzles in new ways that they could not have imagined just a few months earlier.
Our children are surrounded by books. Thousands of books line the walls of the library and shelves throughout the building. Our books are carefully selected for content, beauty of illustration, and quality of writing. It is clear to us that the earlier a love of books is instilled, the greater a passion of reading and learning as they grow.
We firmly believe that there are many things a child needs to do and learn before s/he is ready to read and write, and that it is not necessary or even desirable for children of preschool age to be able to identify and write their letters. Early childhood is a time for play, exploration, and learning to get along with others. Attempting to force the issue of reading and writing prematurely not only detracts from these basics of early childhood, it can cause frustration, a feeling of inferiority, and even a life long resistance to reading.
It is however, so important to lay the groundwork which will make the task of learning to read and write easier when the time does come. We do this on a daily basis through our play, circle time, art, and music activities, each of which play an important role in this process.
A significant part of our program involves interviewing each child regarding our current unit of study. Their responses to these inquiries are recorded on paper and read back to them upon completion. Observing each word being written as it is dictated allows children to make the connection between written and spoken word. In the process, they learn to communicate in a coherent manner about things that are important to them.
In creating a peaceful society, we are responsible to set standards and expectations for honesty, courage, wisdom and compassion. Children at Growing Places will learn the importance of reaching out, empathizing, accepting and celebrating differences. Through clear guidelines and expectations for children regarding non-violent play and demonstration of good manners, they will learn to communicate feelings and resolve conflicts in acceptable ways.
Growing Places provides an opportunity for a child to develop his or her natural creative impulses by allowing him to:
Become familiar with a broad range of material, process, and technique (paint, paper,
clay, paper mache, collage, natural and reusable materials, etc.)
Gain first hand experience of expressive arts as they relate to nature and community, and different cultures.
Practice expressing him/herself in a positive manner
Increase his/her level of confidence through personal accomplishment
Experience the satisfaction of seeing their artwork on public display
Become acquainted with working artists in the community
Develop a strong foundation for the lifelong expression of creativity
Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature. –Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
-Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)
Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.
Nothing is more the child of art than a garden. –Sir Walter Scott
ArtClick on art for a closer look.See images »
Through a variety of field trips, garden, art and classroom activities, your child will:
Learn about the cycle of life
Become aware of their natural surroundings
Participate in caring for their planet by conserving, reusing and recycling on a day to day basis.
Learn about interconnectedness of the web of life
The garden at Growing Places provides a self-contained ecosystem on premises, as well as an obvious initiation to environmental awareness through infinite teaching moments (e.g., observation of an ant hill provides lessons in community, life cycle, and environmental responsibility re: pesticides, etc.). The garden offers a place of solace: nooks and crannies provided by the sunflowers, weeping cherry, bean teepee, and playhouse provide a back drop for elaborate make believe, hideaways for quiet chats or just a peaceful moment to oneself. It provides a focal point for observation, self expression, and creativity, while enhancing so many skills necessary for successful learning. Discovery activities encourage children to explore the natural world, and help children learn ecological principles. Children develop an understanding that everything in nature is important as they learn how nature works. Reflective activities inspire children to express their feelings about themselves and nature, and deepen their connection to nature as they write about thoughts and experiences. Nature writing and journal sketching help children increase awareness of the natural world around them. Children slow down, focus, and use observation skills to capture their experience of nature through various art and play activities.-
Our children are introduced to the world of music through song, rhythm experiences, movement, and exposure to the many types of music through recorded and live presentations. This program is enhanced through the participation of music and dance professionals in the community, and live performances in the area. We feel music is important to learning because it develops listening skills and auditory awareness, contributes to speech and language development, involves both large motor skills and small motor skills, encourages creative expression, and offers a release for feelings and frustrations. It gives children opportunities for social interaction and cooperation, and sets the tone for our classroom.