Play. Exploration. Nature.
Year-Round Programming with Lots of Outdoor Time
Story Time at The Schoolhouse is a year-round preschool program for ages 2-4. Our curriculum follows a play- and nature-based philosophy, with much of the day spent outdoors. Story Time centers play, place, and season in all activities and learning. Indoors, classrooms are intentionally designed with areas for dramatic play, building, art, emergent literacy, reading, quiet play, gross motor play, music, and sensory exploration.
In addition to classic preschool activities (story time, crafts, imaginary play, and music), Story Time stands apart from other childcare settings in several ways:
An unwavering commitment to play
At least 2 hours a day (often 4-6) outside, in structured and unstructured activities
Explorations at the farm and forest at Bread and Butter Farm
Organic gardening – preparing, planting and harvesting
Structured and unstructured physical activities in the gym (yoga, dance, ball games, rock climbing)
Vegetarian, organic school lunch option
Frequent field trips to area museums, libraries, and farms
Emergent literacy instruction for children who are ready and show interest
Number of morning students: 14
Number of afternoon students: 9
Student/Teacher ratio: 5:1
Wild Grapes Classroom
Number of morning students: 19
Number of afternoon students: 14
Student/Teacher ratio: 6.5:1
Year round, June through June, including summer
Full Day Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday - Friday *
Half Day Morning Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Half Day Afternoon Hours: 2:45 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
3/4 Day hours: 8:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
* Wednesday programming ends at 2:45 p.m.
Unlike our elementary and middle school, Story Time is a year round program; tuition includes the summer months. Our preschool programming and tuition always includes summer, however families may sometimes reduce their summer hours in a limited way, with the approval of the Story Time Directors.
To help meet the needs of families, daily scheduling is flexible. We offer 2 to 5 days of programming, with both part-day and full-day options. Families with children in our other programs have preference when applying to Story Time, and vice versa. Many children stay with The Schoolhouse from their very earliest years through the upper grades, and we have siblings throughout our programs.
What Does It Mean to Be a Nature-Based Program?
One of the foundational ethics of Story Time is to connect children to the natural world by giving them lots of time to explore outside. Children are allowed to inspect puddles, climb on rocks and logs, make mud pies, pick up bugs – they become naturalists, scientists, and artists through this kind of exploration. In addition, going outdoors in all kinds of weather promotes resilience and strengthens positive behavior.
Of course, preschoolers go out in all kinds of weather only as safety permits. We will stay inside, or seek shelter if already outside, during an electrical storm, very high winds, or extreme temperatures. If it is zero degrees or colder, teachers will make the call as to the safety of being outside, in accordance with state guidelines. In general though, every child will be expected to spend much of their time outside.
Our teachers have rich nature and science backgrounds, often with degrees in environmental science, and they have experience leading outdoor preschool programming. We make sure that the experiences the children have are safe, well-supervised, meaningful, engaging, and – of course – fun!
The Importance of Play
Story Time at The Schoolhouse has an unwavering commitment to play. It is one of the most important ways in which children learn. During long periods of both open-ended and structured play throughout the day, our highly qualified teachers support and guide students to build friendships, work together, and solve problems. Through play, we also uphold our mission to teach and exemplify social and environmental justice.
Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving: We use a strengths-based approach to redirect challenging behavior. Children learn that their voices and feelings are important, and our teachers are trained to listen to and acknowledge children's feelings and ideas. When children are in conflict, teachers invite them to listen to one another, encourage empathy, and guide them to solve their problems together – with the children's own ideas and solutions when possible. Story Time teachers believe it is more important that children learn to approach a problem or question using their own ideas, thinking, and guesses than to give immediate answers. Teachers model their own thought processes out loud when questions arise, to encourage children to try different thinking strategies and encourage awareness of others and empathy.
Social Justice: The play-based environment at The Schoolhouse incorporates dolls of differing ethnicities and abilities, and books that represent differing perspectives with regard to race, gender, marriage, work, and culture. Teachers also consider the unique characteristics and backgrounds of students and families, and weave in opportunities and activities to positively acknowledge the many differences within our community.
The daily schedule at Story Time allows for long periods of child-directed play, interspersed with morning circle, meal time, outdoor time, and planned activities. Children are allowed to continue to play or join the offered activities. Our indoor/outdoor setups are diverse enough to engage the varied interests of the children and also encourage them to try new things. Setups might include: open-ended art projects, sensory stations, dramatic play/dress-up materials, block and building play, an open-ended writing/alphabet exploration center, a reading corner, a quiet play area, a loft, and open-ended music materials. The wider school facility/grounds also includes a gymnasium, library, and 30 acres of wetlands and woods.
Farm Food Forest
Preschoolers experience our Farm Food Forest programming in a fluid and ongoing way. Nearly every week, children spend time at Bread and Butter Farm or in the forestlands surrounding it. We believe there are many opportunities in the natural world to kindle a sense of wonder and curiosity. Activities change with the seasons, and students may plant seed starts, taste kale, visit with the farm animals, or explore the plants and creatures of the forest. Teachers also incorporate cooking activities in the preschool kitchen, often with foods grown on the farm, and preschoolers contribute to the annual all-school Harvest Meal.
Our teachers track educational, social, and emotional development in both formal and informal ways. Informally, teachers observe developmental milestones throughout all activities. Formally, they track changes through Teaching Strategies Gold formative assessment practices, as well as regular small group meetings and full staff meetings. To keep families apprised, teachers meet with grown-ups each semester to discuss progress, successes and challenges, and to address any concerns that haven’t been brought up at other times. In addition to the conference, families also receive detailed written narrative assessments.