Circle preschool- where it all began

1. Children enjoy learning. Words, letters, numbers, and other symbols are fascinating playthings, just as are dolls, blocks and trains. Children, like serious scholars, seek order and attempt to integrate bits of information into some kind of pattern.

Daily activities are designed to assist the child in giving coherence to his world. The same sequence of events is maintained every day to create a familiar and orderly progression. The child has the security of knowing what comes next and what choices are available to him/her.

Teachers submit lesson plans one month in advance to the Director, who coordinates them to offer the child maximum variety. Some projects involve systematic study - of birds, bugs, magnets, the solar system, the anatomy of the human body - and continue over periods of several days or weeks. On the other hand, number concepts may be presented by activities ranging from peg boards to cooking classes. On any given day the child may choose among at least three activities, and may participate in all or in just one of special interest to him. Teachers keep day by day written evaluations of their lessons.

2. For the child, doing, learning and growing are inseparable. The philosophical adult may say "I think" or "I am" but the child revels in "I can!" Children do for the pure satisfaction of doing, often without concern for and end product, and nearly always without interest in some extraneous or deferred reward. They are rewarded by sharing their enthusiasm and by receiving attention and approval.

The young child is an almost compulsive imitator. He learns by copying the activities of others. Since effective learning depends on appropriate feedback, the role of the teacher may be as guide, audience or example.

3. The child learns through interaction with his environment, which includes not only buildings, equipment, and materials, but other children and adults.

Circle Preschool has among its resources a diversity of staff and children. Faculty is recruited from Bay Area colleges and universities and includes as many men as women. To fund an economically integrated enrollment, Circle Preschool has a scholarship program which has received contributions from individuals, from the Aquinas Fund, and from State and Federal sources. It has also been possible to arrange for reduced tuition rates in exchange for services contributions.

The world outside the school also provides territory for exploration. Field trips help the child to understand the world around him. The location of the school - less than half a mile from the center of Oakland - makes available the resources of the community. Nearby places to visit include Oakland's Lake Merrit Nature Center, the zoo, the fire station, the post office, the University art and anthropology museums, bakeries, gas stations, the Oakland Rose Garden, Tilden and Redwood Regional Parks, and so on.

5. Generally, the child tends to have a positive direction in his development, and each child has his own unique pattern. Progress for one child may be in his ability to join group activities; for another, playing independently, or joining other children in a game of there invention may mark a developmental step forward. Ultimately, the child should be able to move with confidence from one kind of pursuit to another, spontaneous curiosity can be guided, facilitating learning and making pleasant the process of growing up.4. Freedom is necessary for the development of happy, creative, confident children. And freedom means choice - the ability to choose between real alternatives. Given all the opportunity in the world, the child who does not have the skill to draw a circle is not "free" to "create" whatever he wants. The child who does not know how to interact with other children is not "free" to play with them. To give the child skills, technical or social, is to expand his range of alternatives, to give him choices, to give him more freedom.