Our Co-op was organized in 1972 as an alternative to the established for-profit early childcare and preschool programs available at the time. We started as a group of parents who understood that young children learn naturally in an environment offering a choice of activities created with children’s needs in mind. We offer a quality, independent program that includes free play, games, self-help, social skills, creative expression, and field trips. Our program is guided by the following tenets:
Learn Through Play
Our classrooms are guided by the principles of Emergent Curriculum. This means that we encourage learning activities that emerge out of each child’s interests, actions, or serendipitous events. Everything in the world is curriculum, and children find and invent their own curriculum all the time. Learning in our classrooms is about responding and adjusting to the children’s interests. Freedom to act on their interests is a critical factor in the development of a child’s self-esteem.
Our classrooms are set up with clearly defined areas where children can engage in activities of their own choosing. There are spaces for art, alone-quiet time, reading and relaxing, block building, dramatic play, sensory/water activities, science, music, manipulatives, gross motor activities, writing, and drawing. These spaces are designed based on a child’s eye view, and are adapted to meet current interests and play needs, and are rearranged occasionally to renew interest in particular areas. We make activities available that are open-ended and process oriented. In other words, expect to get dirty!
Since everything in the world is curriculum, we also like to go out into the world. We are within walking distance of several parks and love to go exploring. We utilize the community spaces and amenities at the University of Washington and around the city, by walk-rope and by bus. We go out in the wind and rain and enjoy all kinds of weather!
At the Children’s Cooperative Center, we work hard to help our children develop into happy, responsible, independent kids.
Our program is also based on Child Development Theory. Our curriculum is guided by a knowledge of how children grow, and what is to be expected socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically at each stage of development. We put an emphasis on social/emotional development because we feel it is a necessary foundation for all other learning.
Our program is also responsive to the social-emotional issues that surface in childhood: autonomy, strength, power, and friendship among them. We exercise these skills daily in a variety of ways: Washing your own hands and pouring your own milk is a step towards independence. Unpacking and repacking your own lunch takes fine motor control and patience. Putting lovies away in cubbies after nap time requires follow through and resisting the temptation to take lovies out of a friend’s cubby demands self control. Trying to incorporate a friend’s ideas during play is a key ingredient of more imaginative and sophisticated play. Learning happens all the time!
We have seen that there is often great social pressure on young children to meet performance expectations. We feel it is important to preserve the experience of early childhood. This experience is critical to the well-rounded development of the child and their ultimate success: developmentally, academically, and in adulthood.
An anti-bias environment is one that encourages an active approach to challenging prejudice, stereotyping, and bias. An anti-bias attitude celebrates diversity among different genders, races, lifestyles, physical abilities, religions, cultures, and socio-economic statuses. We value families of every background.
Research has shown that children notice differences at a very early age. Their self-concepts and attitudes about others are directly affected by social bias. The goal of our anti-bias curriculum* is to foster:
We have designed the Co-op environment with anti-bias goals in mind. For instance, we celebrate seasons and birthdays, not specific holidays. We use terms like “parents,” instead of “mother and father,” and “fire fighter,” instead of “fireman.” Our books reflect a diversity of gender roles, racial and cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, abilities. We have dolls that reflect different racial groups. The props in the dramatic play area are from a variety of cultures. These materials reflect all the children at the Co-op and their families in a positive way, and expose all the children to the reality of diversity in their world.
*as defined by Louise Derman-Sparks in her book, The Anti-Bias Curriculum
Guidance, not Discipline
The environment at the Co-op is designed to foster appropriate behavior in children. Our school provides a stimulating, inviting environment in which children want to play and explore, thus eliminating much potential for inappropriate behavior. When children receive clear instructions about what to do, they usually act appropriately. However, we all get off track sometimes.
At our school, we foster social-emotional growth through positive framing and guidance, empathetic conflict resolution, and redirection, not discipline. We believe that this approach best enables children to learn to control their behavior.
Positive framing encourages children to reset their behavior quickly without creating a feeling of wrongdoing. It focuses on what expectations are, not pointing out what a child did wrong. For example, one might say “Please dig in the sand,” instead of “Don’t throw sand.”
Empathic conflict resolution involves talking children through their feelings. Children at this age are just beginning to understand what hurts others, and how to express their feeling appropriately. When children come into conflict with each other, our goal is to guide them in exploring how to communicate their feelings. A childcare provider explains what was inappropriate about the behavior: “It is not all right to hit.” And we acknowledge their feelings: “You seem angry.” Then we ask children to express themselves: “Can you tell your friend you are angry?” or “Say, I did not like that.”
When children are not following directions or are engaging in unsafe actions, their behavior is most easily changed with redirection; for instance, “How about going to the gym to jump and climb? Couches are for sitting, not jumping.”
If a child’s behavior is immediately dangerous to herself or others, the child care provider intervenes immediately, then works with the child to make appropriate choices.
Passionate, Dedicated Educators
Our exceptional staff is one of the Co-op’s greatest assets. Our high standards in teacher hiring set the Co-op apart as a quality childcare program. Each staff member meets or exceeds WA State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) guidelines. We also offer many trainings and paid educational opportunities for our staff, including the Child Care Network and Referral Scholarship Program, paid STARS training, and quarterly Staff Development days.
We believe in supporting a staff who understand child and family development and who are faithful to our values. We show our commitment to these wonderful, patient people by paying them a living wage based on Washington state ECE wage scale, providing excellent benefits, and supporting their continuing education.
Community Building: Home Away From Home
Our school is meant to be an open, welcoming place. Community involvement is a very important part of the Co-op, and our school is a home away from home for many of our families, a place to greet and catch up with other parents. We also have several events throughout the year that allow our families to get together: a school picnic each summer, a winter gathering each December, as well as a handful of fundraising events.
Our school enjoys significant benefits from our parent involvement. Parents are asked to help in the classrooms weekly and participate in many aspects of the school. This system has the advantage of building community, improving child-parent-teacher relationships, and encouraging continuity between home and school. Parents have the opportunity to enhance parenting skills and to build a relationship with all the children in their child’s classroom. Parents are welcome and encouraged to be at the center any time they are able.