Our small, family-oriented school provides infants and young children with a nurturing, child-centered environment. We tailor the curriculum to the needs and interests of our students while also referencing guidance from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Vermont Early Learning Standards. We are a four-star school in the State of Vermont’s STARS recognition system. Social-Emotional Skills Social and emotional growth are integral parts of the program, and we provide for these developmental needs in a caring and safe environment: adults guide children in their quest to develop self-control, independence, and the ability to make decisions and resolve conflicts. Together, we work on developing healthy relationships between children and adults as well as among the children themselves (including older children, who model later stages of development).
Play is a young child’s primary vehicle for moving through sequences of growth and development. This age group has a magical, enthusiastic zest for learning, and we meet it with delight and encouragement. The primary role of the teacher is to be supportive but unobtrusive.
Children develop at different rates in different areas, and at Neighborhood, they are free to do so. We use our knowledge of child development in conjunction with an understanding of individual needs—including strengths, interests, growth patterns, and family experiences—to provide each student with a developmentally appropriate learning environment that is consistent with his or her own internal rhythms.
Literacy Literacy begins with imagination, free play, and storytelling. Every part of our classroom and our daily routine builds on all forms and levels of literacy. We are passionate in our belief that free play and child-initiated play are critical to developing mobility in thought, the development of self, and a self-initiated love of learning. In fantasy and drama, children explore story development, strengthen comprehension, and build elaborate vocabulary. During project time, a wide variety of open-ended projects and art materials help children organize, plan, and implement their thoughts and ideas, ultimately leading them to written symbols, invented spelling, and reading. We also celebrate literacy through songs, read-alouds, journals, and group games.
Mathematical Thinking Math is active in every corner of our classroom. Classification of shapes, planning of patterns, and counting how many blocks we used to build the tallest tower are daily activities.
Our woodworking table is a favorite place for children to gather. Children often count how many nails they have hammered, measure how far into the log the nails have gone, or compare the original size of the log to its size after they’ve whittled it away.
Mathematical vocabulary and number concepts are expanded through group games, art projects, and manipulatives.
Scientific Thinking Science begins with questions and predictions—something this age group does as readily as breathing.
Without the imaginative free play we allow at our science tables, there would be no room for self-initiated scientific questions and discoveries. We provide the materials in a well-thought-out and precise presentation, and children bring their imagination and love for hands-on play to ask and answer their own questions. Science also comes alive for children during the long periods we spend outside daily. Playing in a mud puddle, following tracks in the snow, collecting sticks and acorns, feeling the bark on the trees, and noticing the smells change when the wind picks up are just some of the wonderful discoveries we make outside. Additionally, children learn to move naturally and easily within their environment without much teacher direction or redirection: they are able to know what to do without constant teacher intervention.
One of our favorite activities is finding and observing different kinds of animal friends, including spiders and slugs! We have fish, snails, and other seasonal creatures in our classroom to observe and care for throughout the year. Children are immersed in science everywhere, and at Neighborhood, they learn to observe and record their world with charts and pictures. Teacher-led science topics include insects, plant life, and earth sciences as well as awareness of our own bodies and their abilities.
Social Studies Social studies begins with celebrating peers in our small, diverse group. By learning others’ stories, we become more fully aware of and responsible for our own actions, emotions, and thoughts.
We study families and neighbors in our community, and then our world, to model peaceful conflict resolution in our own classroom. We focus on peace and sharing, earth stewardship, sense of place within our own surroundings, and even basic mapping skills.
We spend much of our year initiating conversations and reading books about other communities, cultures, and personal journeys, honoring the similarities and differences between our lives and the lives of everyone on this earth. Community Last but not least, our family-oriented school celebrates as a community as often as we can—with all-school sing, Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day, family potlucks and curriculum nights, our monthly Family Appreciation Night, the Peace Pole Ceremony, and many other activities.