Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School
Oct 26

 

 

 

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Picture Day is always fun at RHCNS!

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Children get to play while waiting!

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Reluctant children are gently encouraged.

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Shhh… there’s an ant on the pumpkin!

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The ant is very gently placed nearby to be in the photo, too!

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I didn’t get the big smile, but the photographer did!

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Some are eager to pose.

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Siblings are welcome!

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Parents can stay to encourage smiles.

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A game of Peek-a-boo while baby brother waits his turn!

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Oct 26

It’s been a long time since the blog was updated, but again, that’s because the children and school come first!

We’ve been busy this year! Some of the things we’ve been doing:

Apple picking!

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Real AND pretend!

 

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We opened up an vet’s office…

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Painting everyday, exploring, measuring, weighing…

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Pretending, learning, experimenting and having fun!

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Did I mentioned our giant “Reading Buddy Bear?”

 

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Jul 21

 

  1. We’re a parent cooperative.  This means the school is run by a parent elected board, and all parents have input.  They know what’s happening in class, and get to see first hand how their children interact with others.  Is your child having a tough morning?  Has  Mom or Dad been away on a long  business trip?  No problem, hang out with us for awhile.  Teachers and parents work together.  Parents are welcome in class!   We also deal with separation anxiety a bit differently.  If your child is having difficulty with you leaving, you’re welcome to stay. We work WITH you and your child, easing his/her transition into the classroom.  When looking at other programs, ask:  “Am I welcome in the classroom?  How often? What if my child is upset when I leave?” (Sometimes, yes, some children are fine after a few minutes after the parent leaves.  Others aren’t.  We treat each child individually.)
  2. We’ve have ALWAYS employed fully certified teachers with at least a BA.  There are many levels of teacher certification.  My degree is in Early Childhood Education, with an additional certification for children with special needs.  I don’t take an elementary curriculum and water it down.  I take rich, creative topics and academic skills, build them up, and tailor them to the children’s abilities.    I’ve been teaching since 1980.  I’ve been a full time “working mom” taking my children to childcare, as well as a stay at home mom.  Chances, are, I’ve been where you are now.
  3. We have a low staff turnover.  I am the fourth director in 55 years. I took over for a teacher who had been at our school for 32 years.
  4. Our curriculum is hands-on and developmentally appropriate. We know HOW children learn is just as important as what they learn. Some children learn best by hearing information, others by seeing, others by touch or movement.  It’s rare that you will see every child produce the same exact craft.  Children are encouraged to be independent, creative, critical thinkers. They are encouraged to observe and hypothesize.  We respect a child’s right to be child, to learn at their own pace. The preschool years are a time of growth, discovery, and learning with their all of their senses.   We follow, meet and/or exceed the NJ Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards.  You can find them here http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/guide/standards.pdf   and here:http://www.nj.gov/education/news/2014/standards/preschool.htm
  5. We play outside everyday.  We have plenty of room to run, explore, climb and be child.  Movement stimulates the brain and increases learning!
  6. We go on field trips.  Even if you’ve taken them to the same places (apple picking, the farm, the post office, etc.) they are going on these trips as a student.  They learn how to cooperate and follow directions in a large group. They get hands on experience that is often replicated in the classroom. For example, after walking to the Post Office, buying stamps, mailing, and hand canceling their own mail, we create a Post Office in our room.  It’s much more fun and meaningful to write your friend’s name on an envelope than writing on a worksheet!
  7. We respect the fact that a child’s family is their first teacher.  We involve families in the children’s learning and school experience. Families participate in activities, they don’t just come and watch.
  8.  We’re a one room school.  That’s right, one room!  We have a homey, old fashioned feel.  Currently, our staff are all former helping parents.  We loved the school so much, we wanted to remain involved!
  9. We provide joyful childhood experiences. Playing, exploring, caring and learning are combined in one bright, happy classroom (and playground, fields, community…)  Question?  Email me at director@rhcns.org.
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Jun 10

*This is our last week for the school year, and we are in our “camp” mode.   Typically, I try to send parents summary emails but decided to post today’s here instead.* During the school year, we have “topics” rather than themes. For camp?  A week of crazy fun!

Ahoy Me Hearties!

What a fun day!  I’ll admit, my voice was a bit rough from all the avasting and yohoing today!    We started off the day with wooden treasure chests  to paint, newspapers to make hats, and sparkly pipe cleaners for those who prefer more sparkle to their headwear!

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On the rug I put a long box, which I’d thought would be a boat, but I was told we needed a pirate cave, so a pirate cave it became!   I put out a toboggan and some brooms.  I realized I’d forgotten a plank, so I brought out our balance board.

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Ok, in my adult mind, I though they’d use the brooms for the mast.   I  was surprised when P held up the board like a mast, and said, “We need a sail.”  Some easel paper, lots of tape and there was a sail!

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The children realized that the mast wouldn’t stay by itself.  There was a lot of brainstorming and experimenting to find items strong enough to hold it straight.   But they did it!

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A little after 10, we convened on the rug to discuss this week’s theme.  I talked about the fact the pirates are robbers, and it real life would hurt others.   We also discussed  imaginative play and still being responsible for following safety and school rules.  We sang “When I Was One,” a silly song about jumping on a pirate ship.  I told the children about the code many pirates followed.  They had strict rules about no fighting on the ship and no gambling.  The crew voted on where they would sail. When treasure was found, each member of the crew got an equal share, the Captain and Quartermaster got double that.  Pirates who had been injured or lost a limb were give a larger share.  They were amazingly democratic for the time!

We discussed our own code for the week.  Even though we are playing in a piratey manner,  school rules must be followed.

When we find treasure, everyone will get the same amount.  (We decided one each.)   When a treasure is spotted, in order to give the younger/shorter legged of the bunch an equal chance, we we point and yell, “There be treasure, Admiral!”  (Ahem, I’m the Admiral.)

We read How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.  The book discusses the pros and cons of a young boy joining pirates.  Pro: no one tells them to go to bed, brush their teeth, or eat their spinach.  Unfortunately, no one will tuck him in good night, and all they have to read are maps! No bedtime stories!  The child leads the pirates to bury their treasure in his backyard, and he draws a map.  The children decided that it was a fiction book!

We sang “This is the Way we Swab the Deck” and talked in a very pirate-y way.

Break for snack prep.  I read half the group the new Mo Willems book,  I Like My New Friend, then read it again to the next group.

Snack was quite tropical, including clementines, banana, and goldfish snacks!  We talked about how important Vitamin C was for sailors, without it, they’d get scurvy.  When someone announced they’d finished their clementine, Mrs Stock said, “No scurvy for you!”    It became quite the game!

We ate by “candlelight” since pirates didn’t have electricity!

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After snack more ships and caves and some water play.  Since it was supposed to rain all day, I’d planned a treasure hunt in the building.  The rain stopped, so we quickly created clues for children to find a treasure outside.   The first clue: “Here’s a place where you can fly, pump you legs up to the sky.”  The children agreed it was the swings.  Again, in order to prevent the older, faster children leaving the others behind, we all held hands and became one big “ship.”  We walked together, swaying with the waves, and looking for whales and sharks.  When the children saw a small roll of brown paper, the shouted, “There be a clue, Admiral!”  We followed the clues to the picnic tables, which lead us to the front of the school.  There was a treasure box with a big tape X on it!    I wish I had a picture of the children’s faces when I opened the box and they saw the “jewels!”    We took the chest back to the picnic tables and children each chose one “gem.”

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Then the ice cream man came! Hooray for camp!

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Jun 05

Here are some examples of hands-on, developmentally appropriate activities.

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Hands-on. (Ok, Car’s on!)

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The leopard makes the numeral 3, growls included!

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When children are in charge of the calendar, they practice one to one correspondence, left to right progression, (extremely important pre-reading skills!) patterning and numeral recognition.

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Jun 05

The way these blogs are posted, you’re reading them last first.  You’ll have to scroll down to get them in sequential order.  I’ve been explaining why Family, Community, Exploration are good descriptors for our program.

Some of you are thinking by now, “WAIT! What about academics? What about reading? My child needs to read!”  We are big proponents of Developmentally Appropriate Practice. (DAP)    I’ll get more into that later.  In short however, when you bring your newborn home from the hospital, do you start thinking, “Oh no! S/he should be walking in one year! I’d better start working on her walking skills now?”  Of course not.  That would be inappropriate. You provide appropriate activities to encourage growth and development.  What many people forget is that reading is developmental skill, like crawling and walking.  Similarly, at RHCNS, we provide opportunities for developing reading skills and math skills in a developmentally appropriate way: hands-on exploration!

My eldest son (now 26) didn’t read in kindergarten.  In first grade he didn’t know vowel sounds.  In second grade, he struggled with “Frog and Toad are Friends.”  During the summer between second and third grade, he picked up an adult paper back of the Star Wars Trilogy and announced that he was going to read it.  It took him all summer, but he did it. At the end of third grade, he scored on the 99th percentile on the standardized reading test.   He graduated from college Magna Cum Laude, and now in in graduate school with straight A’s for his Masters and (so far) for his PhD.

Luckily, he was growing up in a time when it was recognized that reading was developmental.  As a teacher, I knew what had been stressed in college. “It all evens out in third grade.”  Still, this was my son.  I worried. I fretted. His teachers encouraged him, saying, he’ll get it.  He got it.  (The boy who didn’t read comfortably until he was 8?  He now reads, writes, speaks and does research in Russian and Mongolian.  He can finish a book in one day. This was my child who couldn’t recognize the numeral 7 in kindergarten!)

What he also had was a rich background of knowledge. When he was 2, he loved pirates. We read him a child’s version of Treasure Island.  He astounded his pediatrician by asking her if she knew the story, and chatted away about characters, etc. We visited tall ships, examined globes and maps.   At four, he was enthralled with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  He could listen to and discuss the original versions.

Why am I prattling on about my son?  All children are different. All children learn at different rates.

As a former teacher of students with learning disabilities and language delays, I have never taught in a classroom where everyone is on the same level.  As a fourth grade teacher, I had to teach about NJ to children who varied from non-readers to the fifth grade level.  I know how to adapt.  I know how children learn.

Exploration is important, because it gives children opportunities to experiment, touch, think and learn. Three year olds learn from five year olds, and vice versa.  They become confident learners.  They believe in themselves and what they can accomplish.

I’m also constantly exploring new ways to challenge the children.   Here is an example of a fantastic activity I tried after reading Vivian Gussin Paley’s book, The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter, The Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom.

Here is a sample of one of our youngest student’s stories, and how it was performed.

“Once upon a time there was a little girl who was lonely and sad because she wanted her mom to come back.  She turned on the lights but the power runned out but the good bear didn’t have any lights ’cause all the stores were closed.  She was so mean to her and chased her then because she wanted to eat her.  She chased her around the preschool.  The little girl made a big hole and the bear fell in and she got more upsetter and she made another hole at the preschool and she was happy again and she wanted to jump on her bed again and she said yes and she put a headband on and put a headband on the bear too.”

First the children roll up our rug to reveal our “stage.”

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 This takes a LOT of cooperation and teamwork!

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As I read the child’s story, the children acted it out.  Here’s the little girl being lonely and sad, wanting her mom to come back.

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 The bear is chasing her around the preschool!

I love so many things about this activity.  The children were empowered by hearing their stories read aloud. They “directed” the other actors.  What really amazed me was how many of my “quietest” ones came to life!  I saw confidence, pride, imagination and laughter.   We explored the spoken word, the written word and discovered new ways to share our ideas.  The ones who could read read their own stories. The “authors” discussed sequencing, and how the characters felt.  Children would brainstorm how to be a castle. Or a rock.  Was the shark nice or mean?

There was so much to explore!

 

 

 

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Jun 04

For the past several years Music Together has been a wonderful part of our curriculum. Yes, after 30+ years of teaching, I’ve amassed a huge collection of songs and music for school.  I create songs as needed for our lessons.  (There aren’t many songs about metamorphosis or precipitation, so I made them up!)  What I’ve found however, is that the Music Together curriculum introduces children to concepts that wouldn’t occur to me or better yet, ones with with I’m not familiar (tonal patterns, macro/microbeats, etc.)   Children are introduced to classic songs (which our Grandfriends know!) as well as multicultural, traditional and finger plays.

Our $125 activity fee covers a child’s materials for the entire year!  Families are invited to attend Music Together Family Nights twice a year.

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Saying goodbye to Miss Alex every week became so “enthusiastic” we had to have children stand in line to wait their turn!   We LOVE our Miss Alex!

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In the fall, we have a family “campfire night.”  Children come in pajamas, and we have hot chocolate and indoor s’mores!

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Families have a blast, the staff brings their children (who are alumni!)

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One benefit I hadn’t anticipated were the pre-reading skills!  Children  are guided to follow along in their books, tap a picture to the beat, or for our readers, to read along!

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(We don’t usually sit in chairs for music, but this was Wacky Wednesday, so we did things in unusual ways!)

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RHCNS and Music Together: Perfect Together!

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Jun 03

Established over 300 years ago, the borough of Rocky Hill is a beautiful little town near Princeton. It’s a nice “walking” town, even the open fields have mowed pathways for residents to use.

Started in 1959, Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School has been about community from the start. We’re located in the Municipal Building, but our hours are different from the public’s hours. We can walk to the fire station, rescue squad, post office and library. There is a soccer field behind our school as well as mowed pathways, fields, streams, and woods to explore.

Every year we walk to the Post Office to mail letters. We map the neighborhood.

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We can walk to the fire station, or they come to us!

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I think this is one of the most important things our firefighters do. They show us how they go from street clothes to their full gear. Children can practice crawling to them and touching their gloves. Think about. In case of fire, would children typically crawl towards someone who looks and sounds like Darth Vadar? Hopefully, now they will!

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We walked through the fields to the Rocky Hill Rescue Squad and got to sit in and on an ambulance!

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Walking back to school

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The EMTs surprised us by driving by on The Gator, the vehicle they use for off road rescue!

Children need to know where they belong and where their roots are before they can take off and explore the world. At RHCNS, family is the beginning. A child’s family is their life-long teacher and support. Next comes the community around them. We know we have neighbors who help us and help to keep us safe. They help us, we help each other. I love this town, I love this school!

 

 

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May 30

At RHCNS holidays are part of the curriculum, but don’t overwhelm the curriculum. There is ONE holiday however, that we do a lot of preparation for: Mother’s Day!  As a parent co-op, we get to know everyone’s Mom (and Dad.)  Since it’s almost at the end of the school year, it’s the perfect time to thank our Moms!  Let’s face it, who deserves to be treated and pampered more than a mother of preschoolers?   The children plan the menu and prepare gifts and cards. They are interviewed about their  moms. They make them crowns, give them flowers, and serve AND clean up  snack!

Yes, Grandmothers are invited too.  It’s a day for children and staff to pamper our wonderful moms.  The pictures below need no explanation.  The faces say it all!

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Thanks Moms! We really appreciate you!

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May 30

It’s always a challenge to describe what our school is about in just a few words. How are we different from other preschools? What makes us special? Why are we advertising “Family,Community, Exploration?”

Let’s start with Family. We are a parent cooperative. That means parents run and operate the school. Parents elect a Board and make decisions about the school. They help in the day to day operations. They know what’s going on in the classroom. Does that mean we have only Stay At Home parents? Not at all. We have many full time working parents who get involved with what works for them. The actual helping in the classroom ends up being about five times a year.

On the first day of school, it’s common to see parents hanging around for awhile.

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Our separation anxiety policy has always been (and as long as I’m here, always will be, “If your child needs you to stay, you may stay.” I often tell parents, “If YOU need to stay, that’s a different story!”) I work WITH the parents. Some parents tell me, “S/he’ll be fine as soon as I leave.” That’s fine. If they child cries for awhile, I can handle it. (I started taking care of babies when I was 12. I have a LOT of experience with children!) Some children just need Mom or Dad to hang around for a day or a week to help them get adjusted. It’s all individual. (I had to stay for the first three weeks when my youngest attended.)

What is the child’s earliest and most enduring teacher? Family. What’s the most important influence on a child’s life? Family! It only makes sense that a child’s earliest introduction to school involves and includes family!

I’ve had other teachers ask me if it was disruptive having parents in class. I LOVE it! Don’t the other children feel left out when their parent isn’t there? At first, if they’re new, we may have to explain several times that everyone gets a turn. Today is his turn, your turn may be next month.

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In the above picture, a child is showing the rabbit to his little sister and Mom. She’ll be attending next year, and is learning “the ropes!”

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In this picture, a big brother (an alumnus) came to read to the class.

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Parents come on field trips. This mom is demonstrating how to relax in a stretcher as the children buckle her in at the local Rescue Squad.

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This mom is showing her daughter how to make a snow angel!

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Dad had a day off, and came in to see his daughter’s stories.

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Parents help at Trunk or Treat

 

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Dad can help reach the really high apples.

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Grandparents get in the act, too!

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Our Music Together Family Nights are fun for the whole family!

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This was a very special request! Can the new baby come in? Mom read a story about a new baby coming.

At RHCNS we become a school family. Parents can choose the amount of involvement, from the minimum amount to coming up with new ideas and helping wherever they can. What I liked the best when I was a helping parent was that I could see what was going on in the room. I knew I was welcome. I saw how my child interacted with others, and who his playmates were. I got to meet the other parents. (And yes, I have had other experiences. Before we could get into RHCNS, my older two were in different programs. They were ones where I could sometimes peer into the window on the door to see what was happening. I actually forfeited a $100 deposit at another school when an opening became available at RHCNS. I never once regretted it.

RHCNS is not for everyone. If you want an old-fashioned feel to your child’s nursery school, one where childhood is celebrated and nurtured, where you are an important part of your child’s education, then perhaps we’re a good choice for you and your family. How will you know? Come visit. Will your child be exposed to the ABC’s and 123’s? Of course. Concepts are presented in natural, hands-on, child friendly ways. Social skills? Most definitely! Science? Oh yes, all around the room! Play outside? Yes, even in the snow! I love this school. Our parents and children do, too!

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