A typical day at Neighborhood is full of variety; our programs follow schedules which allow students time to explore and discover for themselves. This means that on some days a student may be fascinated by a particular science question while another student will be focused on reading and literacy skills. Or while outside, some children may be engaged in a group game on the grassy field while others are more interested in fantasy play on the playground. On other days we may be hiking or ice-skating, designing our own plays, or visiting concerts, plays, the library, museums, or local farms. We thoughtfully present children with activities and material which they can approach with their own curiosity and ideas at their own speed.
Our preschool program begins with free play until circle when we connect with a story, a song, or a book. The children are then free to choose stations to play at. Some students will choose to spend the morning with sand or clay at the sensory table, paint or stamps at the art area, woodworking, blocks, manipulatives, or an experiment at the science table. After we clean-up and eat snack together we spend the rest of the morning playing and exploring outside.
The Pre-K and Kindergarten class begins their morning at circle before they move on to stations that intertwine literacy and numeracy play. Afterwards they have classes with specialists in art or music, depending on the day. The students eats their snack together before playing with the other classes outside. When they come inside they read together before lunch and chores and end their day with meditation and dancing.
The elementary students begin the day with quiet time to focus before circle. After circle they have math and eat snack as a community. After snack they practice literacy skills with journals and independent reading. We have time dedicated to playing outside every day before lunch. Depending on the day, a specialist may visit in the afternoon to work on Art, Music, Environmental Ed, Woodworking, or writing.
In addition to regular learning time in the woods and gardens, classrooms and surrounding community, our students round out their education with special programs, including:
- Environmental Education – Our respect for nature permeates everything we do, from the themes we study all the way down to our school compost heap. In addition, we set aside weekly trail time with an environmental educator who teaches woodland skills to children at all age levels.
- Field trips – Local farms are a favorite destination several times a year, and we arrange other field trips based on the year’s theme. We also do an off-site fall hike and spring hike each year, in addition to our frequent explorations in the woods behind the school.
- Reading Buddies – Older children visit the elders at Holton Home to socialize and read stories together. These inter-generational activities brighten the seniors’ lives and broaden children’s understanding of, and respect for, others.
- Music – Our community gathers for all-school sing once a week, learning songs related to the seasons and the current curriculum. Music is integrated regularly into classroom life, and our music teacher visits each class weekly for dedicated musical education.
- Physical Education – We offer a full physical education curriculum through the seasons, integrating social-emotional learning, environmental education, music and other aspects of our programming into the mix. Our unique social soccer program helps kids develop a healthy attitude toward cooperative team sports, including their strong emotions around winning and losing. Skiing, ice skating and visits to the rec center downtown, in addition to our work in the gardens, ample time on the playground, and explorations in the woods, keep students physically active all year round.
- Hikes – We build community and outdoor skills by taking hikes through the 400-acres of protected forest in our backyard and twice a year we plan off-campus hikes to explore our wider surroundings.
- Plays – Twice a year around Halloween and Winter Solstice we script, design, and perform plays for our community. We also perform puppet shows for each other with Jana’s help!
- Parent-Led Programming – Each year, a few parents meet their requirement for service hours by offering a workshop in their area of professional expertise. Parent-led programs have included international folk dance, woodland survival, gymnastics, three-dimensional drawing, foreign language and many others.