Russell Cooperative Preschool is dedicated to fostering children's play and the enjoyment of childhood by children and parents.
Russell Cooperative Preschool was founded in 1975 by a group of parents wanting to provide quality preschool education in a warm, supportive, and open atmosphere. Recognizing that play is essential for young children, we offer a rich variety of experiences to allow and encourage social, emotional, and creative growth.
Children in the program range in age from three to five years old and attend school three, four, or five days per week. Our experience has shown that a minimum attendance of three days a week makes for an easier transition from home and a richer experience, both socially and educationally.
There is an average of 18 students per day. Each day there are four teachers and a parent helper, making a 1:5 adult-to-child ratio.
CURRICULUM & PHILOSOPHY
Our classroom world is filled with deep imaginative play. We encourage children to discover their own special abilities and interests, to learn the pleasures and responsibilities of being a group member, and to build new friendships.
Russell's curriculum offers children a range of wholesome activities in a homelike environment, emphasizing natural materials and simple playthings that leave scope for children's imaginations. The children bake bread, make applesauce, paint and draw, or play with blocks, dolls, playdough, sand and water. Older children are introduced to projects such as needlework and finger knitting. The daily routine encourages self-sufficiency. Children help to prepare a cooked snack, pour their own drinks from pitchers, and help to clean up after each activity.
Songs and storytelling are an integral part of Russell's curriculum. The children sing every day, learning many seasonal songs including ones from generations ago. Many children come home singing traditional English harvest songs or melodies that their great-grandparents knew as a child. Stories from long ago, told from memory, engage children's imaginations and help to stretch their attention spans.
The classroom atmosphere reflects a peaceful, inclusive philosophy. As children play, teachers remain in the background but work to preserve a gentle, cooperative tone within an "open classroom" format. Teachers proactively discourage weapons play and teasing. Children participate in forming rules and discuss ways to make everyone feel welcome at school.
The classrooms at Russell are large, sunny, and simply decorated, providing a serene background for children's play. Children play outdoors in almost any weather. A large indoor area offers space for dance/movement and physical play on extremely cold and rainy days when we can't get outside.
RUSSELL SCHOOL TRADITIONS
The Annual Lantern Walk
These days, we humans - with central heat in our homes, our cars blasting heat at us while driving - have little direct exposure to the subtle seasonal changes. Long before central heat and electric lights arrived to comfort us in the winter, people had to make sure they were prepared for the coming darkness and cold. Was there enough food to put away? Enough wood? If not, there was no easy solution to surviving the harsh winter.
Our lantern walk is an event recognizing the coming darkness and cold of the winter months ahead and the need for people to gather together for warmth and light.
Families meet and walk quietly through an unlit path, guided by our school-made candle lanterns. We then end by singing together, and return to our homes ready for a colder and darker world.
May Day Celebration
Friends and family gather to watch the children sing and circle our birch May Pole. Children arrive at the May pole adorned in their self decorated May Day crowns and capes. At the conclusion of the dance we enjoy a snack of strawberries and whipped cream on our playground.
Things we talk about as we prepare for our May Day Celebration:
"In the old days ..." stores didn't have fresh flowers and fruit for sale during the winter. It is hard to imagine, now we can get food from around the world at most any time of year. But not so long ago, fruit and vegetables were for sale only during the season they could grow near your home. So when winter finally gave way to budding flowers, people rejoiced. They took the day off from their work, and danced and sang into the night celebrating May Day.
"In the old days ..." fairies were brave on May Day, and if people were quiet and went deep into the woods - especially near running water - they might see the fairies.
"In the old days…" as the month of April rolled to an end, people would begin gathering flowers to put in handmade May baskets. At dusk on the first of May, they would secretly hang the baskets on the doors of friends, neighbors, loved ones and old folks. Just for the kindness of it…
Handmade Birthday Gifts from "Room Mouse"
On the morning of each child's birthday Room Mouse leaves one of her handmade gifts in the child's school slipper. Some of the gifts she has given in the past are acorn necklaces, felt hearts, and marbles in a homemade bag.
End of Year Picnic
Our last day of school is celebrated with an afternoon picnic and play at the Arsenal Playground in Watertown. Families and teachers share food and stories and say goodbye for the summer.