This year The Neighborhood Cooperative celebrates it's 45th year! Our school was featured on the front page of the Winchester Star. Please see link and story below.
By Bram Berkowitz
May 14. 2015 2:01AM
Winchester's Neighborhood Cooperative Nursery School celebrates a milestone
In the 1980s, young Heather Pacheco was a student in Betsy Brickley’s class at the Neighborhood Cooperative Nursery School. Pacheco’s mother was a parent helper in her class and her father built wooden benches for the school.
Now, more than 30 years later, the benches are still there. And so is Pacheco.
As an adult living in the area, Pacheco enrolled her two children in the school because she knew Neighborhood Cooperative Nursery School was a place where she could get involved. When she saw Brickley again, the two remembered each other and Brickley gave Pacheco some of the old lesson plans she had taught her back in those days. Eventually, Pacheco would be hired as a teacher.
Since the school’s founding in 1969 all the way to its 45th school year this year, an atmosphere filled with parent involvement, an enthusiasm for learning and community has been at the core of the school's values.
“It’s a really special place. It's more than a school; it’s a community that you are a part of,” said Pacheco.
In the 1970s, the school had two classrooms and three teachers in the building that it still occupies today. Now the facility at 21 Church St. features three classrooms and a gross motor/metering room -- a large space designed for running, climbing, riding bikes and playing games --with a staff of nine that caters to 72 children. Children at the school must be within the ages of 2.9 to 5 years to attend.
Lead teacher Jackie Dee, who has taught at the school for more than 25 years, said, “Friendships that were formed over 35 years ago at the Neighborhood Cooperative are some of my closest today.”
Each class has a parent helper. Parents also gather with the children for a short time before school begins each day and attend classes once a month.
“Throughout the years, many on the staff of the Neighborhood Cooperative have been parents with teaching backgrounds and a love for the school,” said Dee.
More than just sitting in on classes, parents have supported and taken part in the play-based learning model that is the basis of the Neighborhood Cooperative Nursery School’s approach to early education. Executive director Janel Nagtegaal refers to the play-based model as a “hands-on, minds-on process,” and describes it as actively participating in learning and having the students discover the ideas and academic concepts themselves through activity-based lessons, as opposed to students learning in a more lecture-oriented environment.
For example, a class watched the evolution of a butterfly from a caterpillar up until it leaves the cocoon, which is very exciting for the children, said Nagtegaal.
“I think it (play-based learning) fosters the love of learning so they start out wanting to go to school,” said Pacheco, who added that parents learn a lot about children by being in the classroom. “Parents see first-hand what makes them tick. (They) learn a lot from other parents in the classroom. Parents also see teachers use techniques."
Although a lot of nursery schools have shifted to more academic-oriented learning, Nagtegaal said the school has stuck to the play-based model, which most research now supports. This model is part of the foundation the school was built on, she said.
“Love developed through the relationships forged at the school by parents and children alike is part of the reason we continue to prosper,” said Dee.