How We Teach

How Children Learn

What Children Learn


A Typical Day

Learning at CCS

How We Teach

CCS is a learning community rooted in a progressive approach to education, in which children and adults are valued as learners and teachers. The emphasis at our preschool is on utilizing practices that educate the whole child—the emotional, social, physical, and intellectual being. We encourage students to use all of their learning resources—visual, kinesthetic, auditory, emotional, and interpersonal—to explore, develop awareness, strengthen connections, and express understanding. We honor childhood and nourish students’ strong sense of connectedness and engagement.

We respect children as individuals. We honor childhood as a unique and important phase of life. We create a space that allows children to experience childhood as a time for curiosity, exploration and discovery. We provide our students with the opportunity to play. We support students as they develop tools for exploring, making meaning, developing their inner awareness, and connecting with others. We provide intentional learning experiences that encourage children to work together building community and relational skills.

Our teachers work carefully and intentionally towards establishing trusting and mutually respectful relationships with the children, families, and within the group as a whole. As children develop a sense of belonging to a community they build the basis for understanding their connection to the world around them.

How Children Learn

Children learn best when they have opportunities for active, hands-on experiences; when they have opportunities to experiment, try out ideas, and make mistakes in a safe context; and when they are taught that their questions and ideas are interesting, valuable, and worth pursuing and testing.

Children learn best in the context of positive social relationships. Relationships that are built on mutual trust and respect allow children to learn by cooperating to improve their ideas and create shared meaning. Positive relationships allow children to learn from each other’s experiences. Positive relationships in a school environment create a community where learning and friendship are inextricably linked.

The importance of both active exploration and positive relationships are brought together in the context of play. Play provides children a medium for understanding and consolidating knowledge. Play is the means through which children think, feel, and create meaning. In play, children investigate and explore what they know and don’t know about their physical and social world. Within the relatively safe context of play, children try out roles, act out “what-ifs,” express ideas, try out solutions to problems, and simply imagine. Through the symbolic nature of play children lay the foundation for future, more sophisticated abstract and symbolic thinking.

At CCS we provide children with a wide variety of opportunities to learn through different types of play: socio-dramatic play (“house,” “store,” etc.); constructive play (building with blocks, working with legos); creative play (art, writing, dance); fine-motor play (puzzles, beading, small toys and figures); sensory play (clay, water, sand); gross-motor play (running, climbing, dancing, sports); quiet play (reading, yoga, alone-time); social play (conversation, cooperation). In all these contexts, we strive for open-ended play, in which children’s play is not limited by adults’ expectations or the practicalities of toys that can only be used one way, but is limited only by their own imaginations.

Practices such as yoga and mindfulness are integral to our play-based curriculum, as they support the development of physical well-being, self-awareness, and emotional stability. These practices enable the children to approach learning holistically, and to acquire powerful tools that support learning and development. Learn more about these practices below.

What Children Learn

Our program supports the development of all the necessary “academic” skills students need to be highly successful when they reach kindergarten. In addition, we work to develop students’ confidence, curiosity, social abilities, communication, and abstract reasoning skills that will serve them as they continue to learn, explore and contribute in our world. We integrate receptive and expressive practices—yoga, mindfulness practices, art—to support children in bringing their whole self to the educational experience.

“The Three Selves”

We dedicate ourselves to the critical work of the preschool years when our children are actively learning to develop their Internal Selves, their Social Selves, and their Academic Selves. When planning classroom work, teachers consider the whole child and the inseparability of the social, emotional, kinesthetic, and intellectual components of learning and the self.

The Internal Self:

We support children in learning to…

  • establish independence and self-help skills
  • examine, evaluate, and understand the effects of their behavior
  • regulate their behavior and control impulses
  • take risks, try new things, and be flexible
  • persevere when the going gets tough
  • ask for help when needed
  • express feeling with words
  • discover what makes them feel better and what does not
  • develop language, problem-solving skills, and receptive practices to manage frustration
  • respect others’ work, bodies, and possessions
  • develop skills and language to prepare for new experiences
  • express the internal self and experiences with expressive movement, language, body-oriented practices, and creative arts
  • develop respect for their physical selves, their bodies, and their capacity to relate to others through gesture and movement

The Social Self:

We support children in learning to…

  • show their friends respect and care by being careful and caring
  • be a good sport by taking turns and playing fair
  • share toys, ideas, and time
  • listen and develop active-listening skills
  • be a peaceful problem solver by learning how to calm down, listen, talk and settle on solutions that take care of everyone
  • join in and to make new friends
  • expect and ask for respectful behavior from friends
  • feel safe and strong with new friends
  • respect differences, be inclusive, and appreciate others as they are
  • recognize and be thankful when given to by others
  • develop a deep respect for their physical selves and their bodies in relation to others, as well as to relate to others through movement
  • respect the physical differences and capacities of one another

The Academic Self:

Over the course of the year, children to learn through engagement in our Social-Studies–based core curriculum. Topics in this curriculum include learning about themselves, the various communities they are a part of (family, school, neighborhood, etc.), and their place in growing world.

Other academic areas such as literacy, mathematics, and science are meaningfully integrated into students’ Social Studies and classroom work. The emphasis is on the importance of active engagement in the world around us; the skills and concepts found in reading or mathematics (for example) help us interact with and make sense of our world. Within our interdisciplinary curriculum, students are given rich and varied opportunities to develop academic skills as well as systematic opportunities to practice them.

Literacy Skills and Concepts:

  • oral language development
  • phonological/phonemic awareness
  • alphabetic knowledge
  • concepts about print
  • comprehension

To develop these skills, students are given opportunities to engage in a variety of rich oral language and early literacy experiences, including:

  • storybook reading
  • book discussions
  • creating books
  • listening comprehension
  • word play
  • meaningful writing
  • dramatic play
  • storytelling
  • classroom responsibilities such as taking attendance

Math Skills and Concepts:

  • develop an understanding of the meanings of whole numbers
  • recognize the number of objects in small groups without counting
  • begin counting and one to one correspondence
  • sort, match, and compare shapes and objects
  • recognize and create patterns
  • use landmarks to find objects or locations

To develop these skills, students are given the opportunity to engage in a variety of rich mathematical experiences, including:

  • opportunities to enhance their natural interest in mathematics and to use it to make sense of their physical and social worlds
  • manipulative work with building blocks, pattern blocks and puzzles
  • games
  • play with auditory, movement, and visual patterns
  • classroom responsibilities such as setting up for snack (one napkin for one chair)
  • play with attribute blocks and toys (for grouping and sorting)
  • dramatic play
  • storybook reading, songs and poems

Science Skills and Concepts:

  • observe
  • investigate student generated questions
  • debate and discuss the investigations
  • debate and discuss the evidence
  • construct an early understanding of classification (similarities and differences)
  • construct an early understanding of space (physical relationships, cause and effect, positions, directions and how things fit together)
  • construct an early understanding of time (duration, predictability, and sequence)

To develop these skills, students are given the opportunity to engage in a variety of rich science-related experiences, including:

  • practices observing the world around them, and recording their observations
  • time investigating different kinds of materials
  • using various senses to gather information about the world
  • discussions and debates with peers and teachers on questions of how things work, cause and effect, explanations for observations, etc.
  • games and materials that involve sorting, pattern-making, etc.



Mindfulness practices are practices that enable us to become more present in the moment, more discerning of our motivations, and more able to fully experience our relationships to ourselves and to one another. At CCS we integrate mindfulness into our curriculum for children and into the ongoing professional development of our teachers and staff. We seek to share these practices with our larger community as well.

In the Classroom: We weave age-appropriate mindfulness practices throughout our curriculum. These include the use of bells, quiet times, yoga-centered movements, and awareness of breath. Mindfulness practices for young children enable them to begin to recognize and to understand their emotions, build tools for social development, and learn to honor their innate capacity to connect to the world through their bodies, breath, and emotions.

For Teachers: Mindfulness and contemplative practices offer our teachers tools to become active listeners, attuned companions, and compassionate guides in the classroom. We send our teachers to workshops, conferences, and other events in which cutting edge practices in this field are explored. We utilize our own customized program of staff development and support to actively support our teachers’ personal work with principles of mindfulness and to support them in their essential work as teachers.


A Typical Day

Each day at CCS has a pattern and predictable rhythm that children become familiar with. This supports the development of their sense of independence and self-regulation skills within the environment. The schedule below is a sample based on the Oak classroom, and does not necessarily describe what’s going on in the classroom today.

  • 8:30-9:10—Arrival Outside
    • Students arrive with their parents in our yard. Parents may want to play with students or read them a story to help them settle into the school environment. Children may spend this time playing, working on projects together, or tending to a garden.
  • 9:10-9:20—Morning Meeting
    • The teacher guides the students in reading the morning message, singing, sharing work from previous days, or reflecting on new ideas. The teacher may also model the special project or activity of the day. This is an opportunity for students to hone their noticing and listening skills, to express themselves, and to practice regulating themselves in a large-group setting.
  • 9:20-9:40—Snack
    • Students, as members of our learning community, will help set up and clean up a healthy snack, and converse with each other as they eat.
  • 9:40-10:30—Special (Music or Movement)
    • In music, students are given the opportunity to play with, create and experience music with an emphasis on rhythm, rhyme, imagination and play. In movement, they will participate in structured play as they do stretching, yoga, dance and creative imitation of the world around them to promote and support motor development, listening skills, self-esteem and imagination. The integration of both quiet and active movement supports the child’s innate capacity to utilize his/her body to understand the world around them. Our movement program encourages students to have a healthy relationship with their bodies, to move creatively, to reflect and to be present.
  • 10:30-11:30—Choice Time (or “Centers”)
    • Students choose to work on projects and activities that they or the teachers have created, as well as play with blocks or manipulatives, read or write, play in the pretend area, etc. Students will clean up or choose to save work. In their work they will be developing math, literacy, and academic skills and concepts.
  • 11:30-12:00—Lunch
    • Children build self-help skills (opening and closing containers, washing hands, etc.) and social skills (conversing with friends) while we eat.
  • 12:00-12:30—Story and Goodbye Circle
    • The purpose of this gathering is to notice, listen, share, take turns, express understanding, develop vocabulary, and enjoy the shared process of learning and discovering.
  • 12:30 Dismissal