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Play-Based, Child-Lead & Nature-Inspired

Nest Community School

.....welcome to our community.....

Our 
Story

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The Nest Community School opened in February 2019 with a single part time classroom and one teacher model inside the Nest Community Center and quickly grew, adding more children, teachers, classroom space and a playground too! Our largest growth is the transition from a part time preschool program to a full day program and care model on our new beautiful campus in the Spokane Conservation District.

We chose our name with care, focusing on the emphasis we put on our community. We believe children have a right to a community of people who support and enrich their lives. We know that it takes a village to raise children and in our modern society, we are more disconnected from that “village” than ever. One of our biggest goals at the Nest Community School is to help build this supportive community for all who pass through our doors. Our teachers and families work as a caregiving team for each child’s unique journey, and see each other as resources with parents being the experts of their children and teachers being the experts of development. 
 

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About Us

The Nest Community School is an early learning community that focuses on the critical relationships between children, families and teachers. We recognize that children learn, grow and thrive best in meaningful relationships with caring, intentional educators, surrounded by beautiful environments that inspire wonder. We are  dedicated to authentic learning through developmentally appropriate practice based on brain research. We value hands-on, authentic, play based learning and organize our classroom environments and schedules to support as much uninterrupted play time for children to dive deeply into their developing skills, ideas and theories. We also advocate that children have a right to learn about the world around them and plan meaningful experiences in nature to learn about the changing rhythms and co-habitants of our forests and neighborhoods. We trust children’s play and follow their lead, incorporating their interests, ideas and needs into our emergent curriculum. Teachers are the careful guides, following the threads of where the children focus their play and offer next steps to extend learning. Who we are at our core can be described by many elements of our program from our philosophy: community minded focus, respectful and individual teaching relationship focused practice between children, their teachers and the classroom environment and research driven curriculum.

Our Philosophy

The early education schools of Reggio Emilia Italy, founded by Loris Malaguzzi, are considered by some to be the highest quality programs in the world. The city of Reggio Emilia recognizes early education as a right for all of its citizens and sees it’s early schools as an extension of democracy of the highest order. Schools are seen as a place for children to be immersed in the diversity of a community of thinkers. Children are encouraged to communicate their ideas through the many languages they have inside of them, words, expressions, art, gestures. Then through dialogue with peers and caregivers, children’s ideas are questioned, built upon and collaborated with. Reggio Emilia philosophy seeks to be on the cutting edge of the science of brain development, cognitive psychology, sociology, neurobiology and putting this research into creating developmentally appropriate practice. Elements of the foundational philosophy we draw from these schools, are their elevated view of the child, their views of the roles of teachers, the intentional planning of the classroom environment as a third teacher,  their emergent curriculum model and their emphasis towards symbolic representation in the hundreds of languages that children have for expression.

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View of the Child

We see children as capable, curious, competent and whole. This view, in some ways, goes against our culture’s ways of seeing children. Our modern world often looks at children through the lens of what they are deficit in. Knowledge they must learn, skills they must acquire, all in preparation for adulthood. Many see children as empty sponges, needing to be filled with knowledge – knowledge to pass tests, knowledge to graduate, knowledge to find a career. Or they see children as messy, incapable and immature, needing constant direction and instruction and overbearing safeguarding. Others still may see children as cute, silly or novel, and feel they need to be entertained, yet easily brushed off as not worth serious consideration.  Our teaching practice is fundamentally different from this.  Rather than seeing a deficit, we see a concentration of that which makes humans inherently good. Raw and at the surface, to be marveled and nurtured, children are capable – they see through eyes yet unfazed by failures and can persist and engage. Children are capable – they constantly test the limits of their abilities and knowledge, they can help themselves, help others, ask for help when needed. Children are capable – mastering their own perspective of themselves and others. Children are curious – they observe and test out their theories, they have an ever-transforming view of how the world works. Children are curious – always experimenting on their impact on this world, from a mark across a page to a shout heard around the room. Children are competent – they are fluent in the languages of connection and expression. Children are whole, complete and worthy. Children have the right to the highest levels of respect, and to be treated as valued colleagues, co-creators and protagonists in the story of their individual journey.  

 

“What we have to do now is draw out the image of the child, draw the child out of the desperate situations that many children find themselves in. If we redeem the child from these difficult situations, we redeem ourselves. Children have a right to a good school — a good building, good teachers, right time, good activities. This is the right of ALL children. It is necessary to give an immediate response to a child. Children need to know that we are their friends, that they can depend on us for the things they desire, that we can support them in the things that they have, but also in the things that they dream about, that they desire. Children have the right to imagine. We need to give them full rights of citizenship in life and in society. It’s necessary that we believe that the child is very intelligent, that the child is strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. This is the image of the child that we need to hold. Those who have the image of the child as fragile, incomplete, weak, made of glass gain something from this belief only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of children. Instead of always giving children protection, we need to give them the recognition of their rights and of their strengths. ” -Loris Malaguzzi

Role of the Teacher

Inspired by our view of children, the role of the teacher is formed. We are guides, a partner in learning.  We observe and learn from the children in our care. We act as play researchers, decoding the why behind children’s play and planning for the possibilities that may unfold. We learn about who each child is – their unique personality, development, thoughts, ideas and temperament. From those observations, we guide. We see the beginning threads of children’s ideas in play and theorize ways to foster a larger understanding. This is how we teach. We believe learning is intrinsic, and valued in all forms. When children are interested in worms, we can dedicate our focus and efforts into delving into mud.  It is refreshingly human to explore that which is most interesting, and to seek that which you wish to pursue. Teaching in early education is this to us: an openly human experience. The art of building and fostering relationships. As teachers of young children, often a child’s first teacher, our role is important. We know that through this primary relationship, we can set the foundation for a lifelong love of learning and mastery of self. Teachers take on the role of play facilitator: creating the scenario for fruitful play. They are deeply focused during children’s play, listening to their words, taking note of their ideas and actions and proposing next steps. This type of scaffolding is critical to help children take their learning to the next level. Like a builder starting from the ground up, teachers observe for where a child is and use their expertise in child development and their interest in getting to know children on a deeper level to question and propose next steps to build up their understanding to subsequent levels.


“We need to define the role of the adult, not as a transmitter but as a creator of relationships — relationships not only between people but also between things, between thoughts, with the environment. It’s like we need to create a typical New York City traffic jam in the school. We teachers must see ourselves as researchers, able to think, and to produce a true curriculum, a curriculum produced from all of the children. What we so often do is impose adult time on children’s time and this negates children being able to work with their own resources. When we in Reggio say children have 100 languages, we mean more than the 100 languages of children, we also mean the 100 languages of adults, of teachers. The teacher must have the capacity for many different roles. The teacher has to be the author of a play, someone who thinks ahead of time. Teachers also need to be the main actors in the play, the protagonists. The teacher must forget all the lines he knew before and invent the ones he doesn’t remember. Teachers also have to take the role of the prompter, the one who gives the cues to the actors. Teachers need to be set designers who create the environment in which activities take place. At the same time, the teacher needs to be the audience who applauds. The teacher has many different roles and she needs to be in many places and do many different things and use many languages. Sometimes the teacher will find himself without words, without anything to say; and at times this is fortunate for the child, because then the teacher will have to invent new words…...Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning and how to learn.”

-Loris Malaguzzi

Play Based Learning

Research shows that children learn best through play. The brain is wired for play and through play, children develop the pathway in their brains that allow them to access knowledge, remember and recall, respond flexibly to varying situations, use creative problem solving, negotiate social situations and so much more. In the words of lifelong childhood advocate, Mr. Rogers, 

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

Our knowledge that play is the best form of learning for young children is the basis for the ways we structure the classroom learning environment, the schedule of the day and the types of activities we offer to children. Children will spend the majority of their day choosing areas to play and be with others. Our curriculum model will be focused on observing children’s play, decoding meaning and possibilities in children’s play and planning for continued experiences to build on children’s interests. When children find topics they are passionate about, the world of learning possibilities opens up for them. When joy is sparked through play, children’s brains focus in, making connections, inferring meaning and taking leaps in understanding. Children build their own learning and understanding through deeply engaging play. The work of preschool could be really summed up as learning how to learn. Discovering ways to seek and find knowledge about subjects children are passionate about through many research avenues (experimentation, books, technology, peers and adults) builds in children a lifelong love of learning. More on our teaching and learning model can be found in our curriculum information below.

“Learning is not the transmission of a defined body of knowledge, what Malaguzzi refers to as a ‘small’ pedagogy. It is constructive, the subject constructing her or his own knowledge but always in democratic relationships with others and being open to different ways of seeing, since individual knowledge is always partial and provisional. From this perspective, learning is a process of constructing, testing and reconstructing theories, constantly creating new knowledge. Teachers as well as children are constantly learning. Learning itself is a subject for constant research, and as such must be made visible.” -Rinaldi, C. and Moss, P.

To best fit the ever changing needs and interests of the children in each classroom, we use an emergent curriculum model. For us, this means that we are actively planning the activities and offerings for children one week in advance. That gives us time to balance what we are currently interested in while providing time to prepare ahead. In our plans, we prepare for activities and classroom materials to offer learning opportunities in all of the developmental domains: social/emotional, physical, language/literacy, cognitive, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, creativity and the arts. We plan for whole group activities at circle time and on the playground. Small group activities in individual interest areas, and offerings for individual children based on their interests, needs or development.  We also believe that learning is often spontaneous and exciting. Sometimes the plans for the day may be laid by the wayside for a compelling interest that emerges in the moment. Flexibility in the day to day classroom experience allows us to be truly emergent.  

“The essence of creativity is figuring out how to use what you already know in order to go beyond what you already think.”

-Jerome Bruner

All are Welcome Here
Anti-Bias Curriculum

The Nest Community School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression and identity, age, national origin (ancestry), citizenship status, cultural identity, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status, level of education, home language, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, children, families we serve, and volunteers. At the Nest Community School, ALL ARE WELCOME HERE, these words are a promise to children and families. The following are the many facets of that promise:

Our promise to the children in our community:

  • We will build an open, safe and mutually respectful school community in which each child and each family is an important and equal member.

  • We will never allow differences of any kind to be an excuse to make fun of, exclude or harm you.

  • We will listen carefully and lovingly to what worries you and give you thoughtful, age appropriate information and support.

  • We will nurture you to feel strong and proud about yourself, your identity and your family.

  • We will facilitate your skills to build relationships with classmates who are alike and different from you.
     

Our promise to the children, families and teachers in our community:

  • We will honor and celebrate the many facets of your unique individual and family identity.

  • We will honor your family’s importance to you by building respectful partnerships with them.

  • We will provide support to you and your family when they feel stress, anxiety, or fear because of current events or acts of prejudice or hate.

  • We will learn about and help your family use legal and community resources to keep you safe and help you access support.

  • We will work to uproot our own personal biases as adults and will speak out against prejudice and bias wherever we encounter it.

  • We will mobilize our courage and become active with others to resist and change any policies and practices that may threaten to cause harm to you or your family.

  • We will model and engage in respectful discourse in response to any concerns as a collaborative problem solving team.

  • We will support each family’s sense of belonging to our community “village.” 

  • We will speak of you and with you using respectful language.

    *[All Are Welcome Here promise taken and adapted from NAEYC Anti-Bias Education for Young Children & Ourselves, second edition]

 

The 4 Goals of Anti-Bias Education:
1. Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.
2. Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences, and deep caring human connections.
3. Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness and understand that unfairness hurts.
4. Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice, and/or discriminatory actions.
*[anti bias curriculum goals from NAEYC Anti-Bias Education for Young Children & Ourselves, second edition] 
 
We recognize that anti-bias work is about more than skin color, so we talk with children about the range of people that make up our community and the wider world. We take care with the words and beliefs we express. Social problem solving is a present part of our daily lives. We challenge children to articulate their feelings and support them in working towards mutually agreeable solutions. By emphasizing alternate perspective taking, we help children advocate for themselves and recognize the needs of others. Teachers engage in ongoing professional development around anti-bias work to challenge our own biases, hone our anti-bias teaching practices, and gain further skill in supporting children’s individual identities and home cultures. We incorporate many developmentally appropriate materials to reflect the diversity in our school, city and wider world. Some of these materials may include books, dolls, games, puzzles, printed photographs, displays or posters. In our emergent curriculum planning, we will find ways to incorporate diversity into any classroom activity and projects. For example: during an ongoing project on fairy tales we may read many versions of one story, including versions from many different cultures. Planned anti-bias opportunities will be culturally sensitive and not reinforce stereotypes or historical inaccuracies. Young children are constantly categorizing and making sense of the world around them and may sometimes make statements of bias. Teachers will always respond and intervene appropriately to stop biased behavior displayed by children or adults including, but not limited to: Redirecting an inappropriate conversation or behavior; being aware of situations that may involve bias and responding appropriately; and refusing to ignore bias.

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