The Williamsburg Neighborhood Nursery School was founded on the belief that a good early childhood program should provide children and their families with a bridge between the worlds of home and school. The nursery school environment must be both structured and nurturing; it must combine the safety and comfort of home with the social and intellectual stimulation of school. Young children are explorers. They use all of their senses to investigate their world and the people within it. Classroom materials and programs are designed to encourage and enrich this exploration. Teachers act as guides, extending the children’s thinking, setting reasonable limits for their behavior, and helping them grow as independent learners.
Parents play a key role in the successful nursery school program. At WNNS parents are welcome visitors in the classroom every morning, and are expected to stay at school with their children during the initial separation phase-in process at the start of the school year. Twice-yearly formal conferences as well as frequent informal conversations give parents and teachers a chance to share observations and insights about each child’s school experience and to set goals for the future.
Our Daily Program
The focus of our daily program is the creative and purposeful engagement with hands-on materials. Teachers provide carefully-chosen materials that grow and evolve along with the child who uses them. At WNNS, children paint and collage. They experiment with sand and water. They work with playdough, build with blocks, and piece puzzles together. They sew and weave. They develop many of their own dramatic play materials, and use these to experiment with different roles and ways of being. They help teachers cook homemade playdough and edible snacks. While children play they are thinking, planning, experimenting, solving problems, and developing language. As their play begins to include peers, they are also listening, negotiating, and taking turns. Through play the children begin to learn about themselves as individuals and as members of a group. They develop self-confidence and self-motivation. It is through play that children gain the skills that will serve them later in school and in life.
The children’s day also includes two or more group times. Children and teachers gather at the rug for song, story and discussion. The children learn a range of songs in different languages and from different parts of the world. They listen to books ranging from folk and fairy tales to information books to books about children’s own experiences of family life or growing up. Times spent together as a class help the children learn to focus attention on the speaker, to follow the train of a discussion, and to value group participation. We recognize that some children may be unwilling at first to take advantage of these whole-group experiences; quiet alternatives are provided so that the hesitant child may observe at a safe distance and join the group when he or she feels ready.
All the children have a mid-morning snack at school, and children who spend an extended day at school bring a lunch. Children and teachers eat together at tables. As at home, mealtimes are a time for conversation and review of the day’s activities. Children are responsible for helping clear and wipe tables when meals are over.
WNNS provides a school experience that is carefully structured, yet also allows the children to explore the school world at their own pace and in their own way. It is this combination of structure and freedom that encourages the children’s spontaneous curiosity and introduces them to the joys of learning.