Join Dana for The Kindergarten Journey on December 8th

Is your child ready for Kindergarten?   Is Kindergarten ready for your child?

Please join Dana Gorman for The Kindergarten Journey, an informative, interactive workshop that explores a “typical” Kindergarten class. Discover and discuss class make-up, schedules and expectations plus gain helpful ideas of what you can do now and throughout the coming year to ease your child’s transition from Preschool to Kindergarten. Dana will share insights from her recent visits to private and public school Kindergarten programs, and there will be time for Q&A.

Dana Gorman, CCNS Educational Director and Fours teacher, taught Kindergarten in Greenwich, CT for 9 years before coming to CCNS, and all three of Dana’s children attended Kindergarten in the Norwalk Public School system.

The Kindergarten Journey via Zoom

December 8th from 7:30 to 9:00pm

Hosted by CCNS    4 Trolley Place    Rowayton

Please feel free to invite friends who may benefit from this workshop.  RSVP to The Zoom meeting link will be forwarded to you when the RSVP is received.

“Hands out, ready to fall!” Embracing the YES! at CCNS.

Preschoolers are often dare-devils and thrill-seekers who naturally test the limits of what’s possible at home, at school and on the playground. It’s what they do.

As parents, our instinct to keep our children safe prompts us to caution our little risk-takers to Be careful! Slow down! Get down! – or the easiest option – No!

At CCNS, we seek to offer children the “yes” that allows them to safely test their limits and take acceptable risks that will make them more experienced, confident, and resilient in the long run.

If a child wants to climb the big rocks, we encourage them to have their “hands out, and be ready to fall.” 

If a child wants to build a block tower beyond their reach, we encourage them to ask an adult for support while they climb onto a chair to add blocks to the top.

Children are allowed to use real tools at the workbench provided they wear googles and their work is supervised by an adult.

The philosophy of saying “yes” whenever possible works in tandem with helping children learn what it means to “be safe”.

As one of our three core behavioral expectations in the classroom, “be safe” means we take care of ourselves.  “Be safe” is an intuitive concept for preschoolers; it’s positive and simple vocabulary that children can both say and understand. We use the words be safe every day in many ways in the classroom and on the playground:

We remind the children that our rules are designed to keep them safe and praise them by specifically calling out how their actions are keeping themselves and others safe.

We model being safe, and ‘think out loud’ as we show them what being safe looks like. We may narrate our actions with ‘Hmm, someone trying to get through this area where I am building might trip on these blocks. I’m going to move them over here to make a safe path. Would you help me?”

And when we need to ask our little risk takers to stop doing something, we specifically call out why their behavior is not safe, such as “Walk with that stick. Running with a stick is not safe

Applying our school’s core behavioral expectation consistently and using the words be safe as a universal language around behavior every day has helped teachers and working parents provide the children with consistent guidance and positive (re)direction. What’s more, it’s given the kids a common vocabulary that they all understand and can use to describe their behavior and that of their friends. For example, when one child tells another “don’t do that, it’s not safe” instead of just saying “stop it”, the child almost always achieves a better, quicker result and in turn feels more empowered to advocate for themselves and solve problems independently.

At CCNS, we strive to offer a safe environment where we say “yes” to opportunities for children to test their physical and mental limits through active play every day. Reasonable risk-taking is an important part of childhood and a critical aspect of healthy social-emotional development that results in the ability to share original ideas, investigate, experiment, invent and accept failure as a learning experience.

We encourage and empower CCNS children to be adventure-seekers, dare-devils and risk-takers… as long as they honor our school value of being safe and they are prepared… with their ‘hands out, ready to fall”.

Be safe. Be kind. Be responsible.

As Miss Adele says, “Every day is an adventure in the Threes!” That’s true… in the Twos and in the Fours, too!

For young children, every day IS an adventure… filled with new experiences, new concepts, new challenges, new words and new emotions. With all the ‘new’ constantly coming at them… it’s no wonder children crave a stable environment marked by predictable schedules, consistent routines, and clear expectations.

Knowing what to expect and what’s expected of them gives children a sense of security and makes them more confident and willing to participate, ask questions, take risks and express their creativity.

At CCNS, we help children understand what’s expected of them by consistently using three core behavioral expectationsThey are:

Be safe – we take care of ourselves.

Be kind – we take care of others.

Be responsible – we take care of things, we follow directions.

These simple, easily understood expectations are introduced during the first days of school, are posted year-round in the classroom, and are shared with CCNS families to foster a universal language around encouraging and managing children’s behavior.

In school and on the playground, these core behavioral expectations are used by teachers and working parents as the basis of all acknowledgement, guidance and discipline. For example, you might hear:

The trucks need to stay on the ground. It’s not safe to take them up on the slide.

I noticed you took turns on the tire swing when others were waiting. That was very kind.

It’s clean up time. Please be responsible and tidy up the things you were using in the dramatic play area.

By referencing these core expectations every day, the children are more likely to behave in ways that meet those expectations and are quicker to correct when a teacher, parent or another student puts their actions in the context of being safe, kind and responsible.

Ultimately, and ideally, successful application of our core behavioral expectations results in being able to spend more time on active, engaged, thoughtful play – which is great… because as we know, these children have a lot of adventuring to do!

NAEYC Accreditation

2018-19 is our first full school year of operating with NAEYC Accreditation, an important stamp of approval earned by less than 10% of all child care centers, preschools and kindergartens nationally.

The process to earn Accreditation from NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) was rigorous, and our achievement has been celebrated by parents, staff and the community. In recognition of the significance of this commendation, Senator Bob Duff presented a Legislative Citation to the school, then joined the Fours Class on the carpet and read a book to them which was fun for everyone!


To achieve NAEYC Accreditation, our staff and board members worked diligently over three years to document and demonstrate what a high-level educational facility we’ve always known we are. Days, nights, weekdays and weekends were dedicated to updating and organizing all the systems, manuals, by-laws, job descriptions, staff review processes, training systems, and financial practices of our school to ensure they met NAEYC standards. During the review process, NAEYC Assessors visited CCNS to verify that our school met the ten program standards and hundreds of corresponding criteria. And going forward, our staff are always prepared for unannounced quality assurance visits which are an integral part of maintaining the NAEYC Accreditation.

At CCNS, we have always strived to exemplify best practices in early childhood education, and earning NAEYC Accreditation is validation that we are achieving our goal.

To learn more about NAEYC Accreditation, visit the NAEYC website.

Outside Every Day

“First the snow pants… then the snow boots… then the jacket… then the hat.  And, then last we put on mittens… so we can go outside and play.”

This little ditty, sung to the tune of Oh My Darlin’ Clementine, is a stalwart CCNS favorite. The process of gearing up to go outside on cold, New England winter days can be daunting for a preschooler, but this catchy tune is a helpful prompt that exemplifies a few things about the CCNS approach:

Independence… Zipping coats, buckling boots, and sliding all five fingers into a glove correctly can be challenging tasks, especially for eager three year olds itching to get outside and play. This musical mnemonic is easy to remember and guides the children in the most logical order of how to put on their outdoor clothes. We work on being able to independently suit up to go outside, which gives CCNS kids a sense of accomplishment and, as any parent who’s taken children skiing will tell you, is absolutely priceless.


‘Be prepared’...  Like the Boy Scout motto, these children are prepared for whatever their outdoor time may bring. They know that, with the proper outdoor gear, they will be able to take another sledding run, shovel a bigger pile of snow, or be able to ‘frost’ their messy, mud pie masterpiece. When your fingers are warm and your clothes are dry, you can keep going. CCNS kids wear snow pants in winter, rubber pants for wet and muddy days, and always have a few changes of clothes in their cubby, just in case fun = really messy that day.


We (always) go outside.  Neither snow nor sleet nor rain nor mud nor ice nor slush will deter these kids from the freedom and imagination they gain from outside play. As long as the temperature is 22° or above, we play outside. Some days, we tweak the schedule to catch the sun or avoid a rain shower and that change in plans is entirely worth it – seeing the children exploring their environment, developing an appreciation for nature, and using their muscles to run, swing, jump, pedal, and hop is a key component of the CCNS experience.

And on days when it’s -22°?   We simply bring the snow inside!

“You’ve Got Mail”… Pen pals and friendly notes in the Fours.

Discovering a card or personal letter among the usual stack of bills and promotional mailings is often an unexpected treat. Like adults, many children enjoy receiving personalized messages meant just for them. Two activities have given the Fours that personalized letter ‘buzz’ lately:

  • exchanging letters with their preschool pen pals, and
  • exchanging notes, cards and drawings with their classmates and teachers.

Pen Pals:  Bonding over gardening and flowers  

When the Fours class learned that Imagine Nation Early Learning Center in Bristol, CT is also working on a gardening project of study this year, they paired up with the preschool classes there to become pen pals. The CCNS children initiated a communication exchange and were rewarded when their new pen pals reciprocated with a long letter describing the Flower Project they are working on.

Last week, the CCNS children collaborated to write a letter to their partner classes describing their year-long gardening project. Together, the children chose the information and pictures they wanted to share with their new buddies and, with the help of their teachers, dictated an informative and interesting note to their pen pals.

This pen pal exchange is a fun way to help develop the children’s communication skills and their ability to describe something that is important to them as well as to generate excitement and momentum around their ongoing project of study.

Friendly Notes: Mailbox flags are up in the Fours.     

The mini-mail boxes attached to the children’s cubbies have been chock-full lately, as the Fours have been busy writing and receiving notes and cards to/from their classmates and teaches. After gathering some simple supplies like paper, pencils, pens, markers and crayons into a writing station and adding a little encouragement, the children quickly brought their creativity and imagination into the mix.  It’s exciting for the kids to look across the room as they are playing and see their mailbox flag up.  “I have mail!” can be heard happily expressed as the children rush over to open their message!

This activity is always available in the classroom and note-writing is an excellent way for preschoolers to practice and improve their writing and reading skills, build connections and friendships with their peers, and to encourage thoughtfulness and kindness. Writing notes to their family and friends is a great way to bring writing and reading practice home!

Monochromatic Nevelson Assemblages… say that three times fast!

In the Threes, we recently found artistic inspiration in the work of Louise Nevelson, an American sculptor known for her monumental monochromatic wall pieces and outdoor sculptures. She lived in New York City and would collect junk like old furniture and off cuts of wood which she would use to create her sculptures. She called her sculptures “assemblages”.

To begin our project, we collected recyclables and interesting ‘junk’ which included differently-sized boxes, cardboard tubes, plastic containers, corks, lids, wooden shapes, jig-saw pieces and even an old hairbrush!

Each child started their project with a cereal box. One side had been removed to create a container for their sculpture. The children carefully selected the “junk” pieces they wanted to use and began to position them within the box. We watched a short YouTube video which showed an artist putting together an ‘assemblage’ and then talked about how the artist had tried putting objects in different places until she found the layout she liked best. Once we decided on our final design, teachers helped the children secure their creations with a hot glue gun.

We learned that Louise Nevelson’s assemblages were monochromatic, or just one color, and we decided to mirror her style by painting ours entirely with black acrylic paint.

The final step was to group the children’s individual sculptures together to create a collaborative work of art, which is currently on display in the Threes classroom.  Take a look!

Playing (and learning) in the snow!

When the children arrived at school last Monday, they were incredibly excited to see our playground covered in snow!  They had read Willow and The Snow Day Dance by Denise Brennan Nelson on Friday, and all went home to follow the book’s directions on how to make it snow… so they felt some ownership of the winter scene that greeted them.

Normally in the Fours, we begin our day outside for about 30 minutes, but this day we stayed out for well over an hour and a half.  It was a beautiful day, and because we go outside every single day, our students are well-trained to dress properly for rain, cold or snow.

It was not until the children started to need the bathroom or to feel hungry that we felt the need to go inside.  At CCNS, we have the flexibility to vary our schedules based on the needs of the children as well as exciting events that might occur – and what could be more exciting than the first snowfall of the season?!

Were we “just playing” for an hour and a half at the expense of our scheduled activities inside?

Absolutely.  But, we were also…

  • discovering the physics of creating sledding paths in deep powder.  Why weren’t we going fast? Why wasn’t it slippery? How did this change as more children came down the path?  Why were some starting to go faster than others? 
  • practicing the negotiation and problem-solving involved with sled turn-taking.
  • finding ice in various shapes and thicknesses all over the playground.  What is inside this ice?  What happens when I drop it?
  • stirring, mixing and packing snow in our outdoor kitchen; creating recipes while learning about the properties of snow and how they can be changed.
  • exercising and strengthening our bodies as we climbed the big hill over and over again, trudged through the thick snow or tried to push our way down slides packed heavy with snow.
  • excitedly and descriptively articulating our discoveries to our teachers and each other.

And, importantly, we were enjoying the beauty of nature, breathing the fresh air and experiencing how highly our CCNS parents and teachers value being outside and having time to explore.

We have a wonderful, large outdoor classroom at CCNS that is ever-changing… from falling leaves or a new snowfall, to a new raised garden bed built by the Fours, to the playground redesign in the works that will add new natural features to make this incredible space even more inviting for extended play and discovery.

Giving children the opportunity to spend more time in nature has garnered a good deal of press recently, and a strong body of research stresses the importance of this kind of experience for children.  It is reassuring to know that the children of CCNS are already benefiting from a rich, natural environment and from a learning community that values this important play.

Dana M. Gorman

Educational Director


To read a few recent articles on the value of outdoor play and learning, click here, here or here!