Our daughter has attended Child's Place School in Lincroft, NJ from age 3 to age 7. It has surpassed all of our expectations as not only as a safe and nurturing environment, but also as a place where she could explore her world fully with the support of sensitive and caring adults. ACP offers a rich learning environment, based on the principles of Reggio Emilia, an approach to early childhood education that was developed in Italy after WWII. One of their core beliefs is that children should be surrounded by beauty with attention to light, color & texture to activate their creativity. The school is kept neat and clean with a lot of natural light. Prisms and mirrors are carefully placed to reflect and magnify it, creating colors and sparkles on sunny days.
"Reggio Emilia is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach Small groups of children come together to form committees to investigate and answer questions they wonder about..."what are all these mysterious holes in the yard", "where does snow come from?", etc. The children spend much of their time outside, even in wet, snowy or cold weather, so that they can experience the seasonal changes and the subtleties in nature. Parents are considered partners in the educational process, sharing their skills and ideas to show the children life's possibilities. They often volunteer in the school.
Teachers interact with the children as co-learners and collaborators by asking questions, clarifying their statements, recording and observing interactions, and in both large and small group lessons. They are called by their first names and are seen by the children as resources and allies rather than as authority figures.
If 2 children become mired in a conflict they are encouraged to pick a neutral child as a mediator and sit together at the Peace Table to work out their differences using a talking stick to take turns, so each child is fully heard. They then come up with solutions. After a while the process is so quick that they often don't need to go to the table at all--the skills are used in situ.
Our daughter is a happy, confident child, who is not afraid to ask questions or seek her own answers. Her favorite past-time from her first day of school was dressing up and playing in the housekeeping area, making up stories and acting them out with her friends. This activity continued to her last day at school in June. I love that we found a place where she was allowed to be herself and pursue the things that interested her. These are such important years in any child's life. I am so happy we were able to have her in this school and would recommend it to anyone. To learn more about the school, visit http://www.achildsplaceschool.com.