Toddler & Preschool Program

Welcome to the preschool program of the Center School, where we take the Center School’s core values of progressive, socially conscious education and extend them to children in those deliciously absorbent, formative years. We know there are many choices of preschools in the area and we are honored that you are considering the Center School.

Our preschool is one that takes both children and play seriously. We see play as the basis for social and intellectual development. To that end:

  • We value nature, art, science, numbers, movement, music, literature and humor.
  • We provide opportunities for children to explore deeply and to adventure both outdoors and in.
  • We aspire to provide a warm, caring, nurturing and creative environment for each individual child.
  • We also model taking care of each other as the first step in building the preschooler’s budding sense of community and compassion.

Each class is comprised of Center School staff children, siblings of currently enrolled students, and children of the wider Pioneer Valley community.

Our preschool model is informed by the principles of the Responsive Classroom, the beautiful learning environments and emergent curriculum of Reggio Emilia, and the growing Forest Kindergarten movement. We pride ourselves on our genuine relationships with children and their caregivers, the careful arrangement of our classrooms and presentation of materials, and our sense of adventurous spirit when exploring the woods with children.

The six guiding principles of the Responsive classroom are:

  • Teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content.
  • How we teach is as important as what we teach.
  • Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  • What we know and believe about our students—individually, culturally, developmentally—informs our expectations, reactions, and attitudes about those students.
  • How we work together as adults to create a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.
  • Partnering with families—knowing them and valuing their contributions—is as important as knowing the children we teach.

In the preschools of Reggio Emilia it is believed that:

  • Children must have some control over the direction of their learning
  • Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing
  • Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that they must be allowed to explore
  • Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves

The Forest School movement has inspired us to:

  • Plan our days around spending the most possible time outdoors
  • Create, model, and encourage a sense of wonder in nature
  • Empower ourselves and children to take risks, work together, and build physical and emotional strength through being in nature together
  • Learn flexibility and resilience alongside our children
  • Foster a respect and love of our planet as well as a responsibility for its care in ourselves and in our students

A typical day looks like:

  • 8:00-8:30 Arrival and free play: Children arrive, store their gear, choose an activity, and say goodbye to their caregivers. 
  • 8:30-9:30 Morning Meeting and Snack : Children and teachers gather on the rug for greetings, sharings, activities, and announcements. Children bring snacks from home. On Fridays, we attend All School Assembly instead of morning meeting. 
  • 9:30-11:30 Morning Adventures : Children and teachers engage in ongoing projects or investigations in the classroom, music class, and playground and forest adventures.
  • 11:30-12:30 Return from outdoors, lunch, quiet time set-up : Children store their outdoor gear, wash up, and transition to lunch (also brought from home). After lunch, cozy spots are set up for rest. 
  • 12:30-2:30 Quiet time : Younger preschoolers tend to sleep on cots or mats with snuggly items from home. Older preschoolers are given quiet, individual activities on their blanket spots. The lights are lowered in all rooms, music or stories tapes played, and teachers sit with children as needed. 
  • 2:30-3:15 Afternoon snack and projects : Children clean up their rest items, and gather for one more meal together. This snack is a community snack, provided on a rotating schdule by families. After snack, children may participate in an art activity, a simple project, or head to the playground. 
  • 3:15-3:20 First dismissal : Children who do not stay for After Care will gather their things in preparation for dismissal. Caregivers pick children up from the classrooms or the playground, depending on the season and the weather. 
  • 3:20-5:00 After Care : Teachers help children pack up their belongings, and bring them to the After Care teacher (usually in the toddler classroom). After Care is a small, mixed age experience with familiar teachers. The group has an afternoon meeting, and then chooses between free play and a table activity. Table activities include tactile play (sand, water, dough), art projects, or cooperative games. 

Please contact Kiah Tinkham, Preschool Director, at (413) 773-1700 ex 1 or to schedule a preschool tour.

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