We are blessed to have such lovely outdoor spaces at CCNS to enjoy, and the flexibility and creativity of our curriculum to make spending more time outdoors a natural and beneficial extension to our indoor classrooms.Continue reading
Dropping a child off to school for the first time can be a traumatic experience for both the child and the caregiver. At CCNS, Twos Head Teacher, Lini Ecker, has developed a unique system to ease children in to the program resulting in much less separation anxiety. Lini often provides the example of dropping a toddler off to school for the first time as if one was dropped in a foreign country with no money, no transportation and a lack of ability to speak the language and then told to “go have fun!” The first few days of school can be very daunting especially for our youngest ones who usually do not have the language to express their needs and feelings. They often need to rely on the intuition of their caregivers to decipher their needs.
At CCNS, all of the children visit the classrooms with a caregiver before school begins to see their classrooms, meet their teachers and walk around with the safety of their caregiver right beside them. Usually that is enough for many of our Threes and Fours, especially since most of them have been at CCNS for the Twos program and/or Threes program and know the school a bit.
For the twos, the goal is to earn their trust and to make school seem really fun before they feel anxious, so that they WANT to return. The first day for our twos is only an hour long. The caregiver stays with the child in the classroom and only half the class attends. During this time, the teachers may ask the caregiver to step out of the room for a few minutes and use this time to gauge the level of separation anxiety for that child. This is individualized for each child. The children enjoy free play and a short story before heading home.
The following week the regular class time is shortened a bit. Caregivers are asked to arrive 30 minutes early and join the class in the outdoor classroom. They can choose to stay together and play or take their child home if he/she seems ready.
The regular classroom schedule of a two-and-a-half-hour day begins the third week with almost all the children eager to enter the classroom and find his/her favorite activity. For those with remaining separation anxiety, the teachers work individually with families to find the best plan to make the child feel safe and happy at school. This can include comfort items from home, a special routine upon arrival, a home visit and other techniques that the Twos team is adept at implementing.
This is the case in all of our classrooms. We read stories about leaving home, entering school and how caregivers always return. We set up special routines for children that may need extra comfort upon arrival and also work closely with families to help ease all of our students into their new classroom environment. We always try to send a photo home of the child who was left initially crying at drop off happily engaged in an activity to ease the separation anxiety for the caregiver. At CCNS working with families as a team is one of our most important goals. From our youngest children to our big kids, we want to make them all feel safe, secure and understood, so they can concentrate on their work: PLAY!
All decisions these days are different. The question of whether to send our children to school and the uncertainty of what that would look like consistently weighed on us all. Now that we’ve all made our choice and taken a collective deep breath, I’d like to take a moment to share what our school year at CCNS has looked like so far.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The Zoom meeting link will be forwarded to you when the RSVP is received.
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”.
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 expectations. They 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!
If you walk onto the grounds of CCNS you’ll be delighted to be surrounded by the calls and colors of doves, blue jays, sparrows, and chickadees yet their presence is by no accident. Rather, the return of CCNS’s abundant bird population is due to the interest and work of our students, particularly the threes and fours classes. How and why did so many species of birds decide to return home? Read on to learn about one example of the great rewards of The Project Approach.
A project is a deep study of a topic worth learning more about and is one of the ways we deliver curriculum at CCNS. The Project Approach follows three distinctive phases beginning with the impetus for the project itself.
Phase I: Initiating the Project
Although the Threes and Fours classes studied the same topic for their deep study, it started for two very difference reasons. The Three Class have a class “animal” that differs each year that they use for their attendance tags. This year their tags are birds. Starting the year off there were bird’s nests and stuffed birds and many beautiful non-fiction books on birds in the classroom as provocations. One of their classmates also raises chickens at her home and she and her mom shared their care and their eggs with the class. The children became interested in learning more about the real creatures based on playing with the toys and observing the nests. The Fours Class had two new window bird feeders hung up at eye level in the meeting area full of inviting bird seed. Watching them eagerly they became dismayed after a month of not seeing a single bird at their feeders. Going on a bird watching walk around the grounds revealed a similar fate-they did not see a single bird! Now they were determined to bring the birds back to CCNS.
Phase II: Developing the Project
CCNS has a wonderful relationship with the Darien Nature Center, so both classes worked with their naturalist, Emily. The cornerstone of any project is the questions from the children. Learning how to ask questions and then how to find answers is the real meat of the project and what increases mind brain capacity in children. The Three’s questions focused on the unique body features of birds, while the Four’s were more interested in why they couldn’t see any birds at their school. Emily visited the Threes class and brought some live birds and artifacts with her. They especially liked drawing sketches of the woodland duck she let CCNS borrow to keep in the classrooms for several weeks. The Fours took a trip to the Darien Nature Center to see the birds inside and outside the center and ask their questions. There they noticed several free-standing bird feeders full of active birds, inciting the next phase of their project. Both classes got busy making bird feeders of various kinds to hang around the school, and the Fours invited the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, Joe, to come to CCNS to give advice on attracting birds to our feeders. Joe helped the Fours class select a bird feeder and all the necessary supplies based on the birds that would be native to our area. The children installed and filled the feeder themselves as well as changed the seeds in their window feeders, even adding dried worms. To the great excitement and sheer joy of all the teachers, parents and children the birds returned to CCNS!! This allowed both the Threes and Fours classes to work together observing, identifying and sharing information about the birds that flocked to our outdoor classroom and each window feeder. They became ornithologists! The Threes class researched and experimented with how the beaks of various birds worked, while the Fours class students each chose a specific bird they had observed and researched its features, food choices and size. They also made costumes based on what they had learned.
Phase III: The Culminating Event
Celebrating learning is a major component of The Project Approach. The Fours became additional experts for the Threes class going in to share what they had learned about each bird with the Threes having time to ask these “experts” questions. They also shared their findings with the Twos class and their own families visited the class to hear their presentations. The Threes class cut out bird shapes from clay and then used their research from photographs and books to paint them with authentic colors and markings to match the bird each clay piece represented.
In true CCNS fashion, the project became a community event with the children in different classes working together, as well as the parents becoming just as excited about seeing the birds back on our playground as the children. Parents shared their knowledge such as with the chickens, their resources by sending in relevant books from home and shared photos of bird sightings around town. The projects have officially come to an end, but the feeders are in place, and being filled just about every three days now that we have hungry doves, woodpeckers, house finches, sparrows, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals and tufted tit mice as regular guests. We even have a very hungry and determined squirrel who has discovered our feeders…perhaps our next project.
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.
“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!
One of the most exciting things about each new class, and something that sets CCNS apart, is how the wonderings of a diverse group of children develop into the year’s first Project Approach study. During the first weeks of school, the children interact with a wide range of stimulus and provocations. We observe, question, tweak and expand what’s on offer, looking for a common interest that sparks the children’s curiosity.
This Fall, the children were busy building structures in the block center and lining up for the workbench– perennially popular activities in the CCNS Fours. But this group seemed especially engaged when working with toy construction tools, playing with construction vehicles and building structures with loose parts on the playground. They were asking questions about how things are built and were especially curious about the tools, materials, jobs, sites and vehicles involved.
They had questions. They wanted answers. And we… had our first Project: Building & Construction.
As in any Project Approach study, the first task was to develop an investigation plan to explore the topic. The children listed their (many!) questions, and we brainstormed ways to find the answers. Their plan included research using books and videos, inviting “experts’ into the classroom, creating their own construction vehicles and making field site-visits to see construction in progress and construction vehicles at work. We added ways for the children to document their learning and report on their findings. Using the Project Approach like this in our curriculum is so valuable because the topic holds the children’s interest for months, and working through the investigation plan builds real world skills that will be used from elementary school to high school and beyond.
Our first field site-visit was to a construction site to interview an expert in the field. The children were very excited to be able to ask their questions and see some of the equipment that they had been reading about in action. We took photographs and made field sketches to help with our research and document our experience. On our second field site-visit, we saw the inside of a building being built, a tree being chopped down and chipped, a stump being ground and several different lawn mowers and trucks. The highlights of the trip were receiving our very own hard hat (to keep!) and actually using the controls of an excavator to scoop dirt and bring it to a dump truck!
On our final field site-visit, we learned all about the process of making concrete from Devine Brothers. We saw several vehicles up close, and our class was even featured on News12 Connecticut talking about this study and our visit.
Thanks to all the construction experts who created such amazing hands-on experiences that the children will be talking about for years. And what a testament to our amazing CCNS community that two of the three field visits were organized by CCNS dads who do not even have a child in this current Fours class!
Once the Construction Project was underway, the children enjoyed new stimulus that was added to the classroom for free-play exploration- construction vehicles, cones, signs, pipes and connectors in the block area plus pulleys and levers to explore our budding engineering skills. There was a moon sand construction site in the sensory table and foam blocks being mortared together with shaving foam at the art table.
With all this talk about building, the children wanted to build something themselves. They were able to make stepping stones from one of the ingredients in concrete: cement. The kids enjoyed watching the cement go from a powder, to a liquid and then to a solid as it cured. They decorated the stones with mosaic tiles and created an individual keepsake of their learning that was, literally, set in stone.
And no construction vehicle captured the children’s attention more than the excavator, so naturally they wanted to make one. Initially, the kids asked to make small excavators out of clay. They learned several clay techniques, and it was amazing to see the fine details that so many of the children represented in their pieces.
Finally the children used their research and field site-visit photos to build a big excavator together. It was incredibly realistic, with moving parts, and the children voted to paint it to match the one they actually operated on their field site-visit.
The kids further documented this Project by creating a class alphabet book using their research and photographs from their trips. Finally, family and friends were invited into the classroom to learn more about building and tour the celebration of our construction project work.
We thoroughly enjoyed this Project – and the best part was building the children’s confidence and pride in their deep knowledge of all things “building and construction”!