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Snapshot of a childs day

Respect, Play and Community

The driving values of Respect, Play and Community are not unique to the Dewey School, but our distinctive perspective and approach is.  


Children are capable and unique individuals that are treated and spoken to  like people, establishing a relationship of mutual respect. We trust them to figure things out and celebrate their unique approach to challenges. We accept children’s varied experience and reactions, encouraging them to work toward intrinsic motivation for safety, compassion and perseverance. 


At the Dewey School, play is not what happens in between learning; it is the space in which children internalize the most important lessons. Play is where children have the freedom to choose activities of interest, to engage with the world creatively and to imaginatively solve problems. Play is where they find joy in and learn from the natural world with the ability to take physical risks and learn their limits. 


Respecting and participating in community is practiced both inside and outside of the classroom. Within the classroom children are given a safe space to learn the art of negotiation and conflict resolution as chances to experience how different interactions play out. Our “village” includes parents that are able to support and connect with one another through our CAP (Caregivers as Partners) program as well as the local and wider communities.

What is a Nature-Based Pre School?

Dr. Patti Bailie, a pioneer of research on the nature preschool movement who currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Maine at Farmington, and Ken Finch, Founding Director of Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood, offer three main criteria to distinguish nature preschools:


  • Nature is the central organizing concept of the program. That is, nature is the integrating thread that intentionally ties together the preschool’s philosophy, methodologies, classroom design, outdoor spaces, and public identity.

  • The program of a nature preschool is based on high-quality practices of both early childhood education (developmentally appropriate practices) and environmental education (the North American Association for Environmental Education’s “Guidelines for Excellence in Environmental Education” and principles of interpretation), requiring its teaching staff to have skills and experience in both early childhood education and environmental education

  • A nature preschool program uses the natural world to support dual goals that address both child development and conservation values. These include the development of the world of the child (in all domains – cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and aesthetic) and the development of an ecological identity or environmental ethic.

Some Benefits of Nature-based Learning
  • Improvement in gross motor skills

  • Cultivate stewardship for our planet

  • Connection to nature

  • Children who play regularly in natural settings are sick less often.

  • Stimulate children's imagination.

  • Children who spend more time outside tend to be more physically active and less likely to be overweight.

  • Encourages creativity

  • Improves language 

  • Builds self-confidence and competence through confidently negotiating risk 

  • Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.

  • Bullying behavior is greatly reduced where children have access to diverse nature-based play environments.

What is Reggio-Inspired?

Developed by Loris Malaguzzi in the post WWII era, Reggio is an approach; an educational philosophy, not a “program.” Born from the philosophies of Froebel, Dewey, and Montessori, Malaguzzi’s Reggio Emilia Approach (REA) to education is rooted in the following understandings:

The child as a protagonist.  The Reggio approach emphasizes the importance of having a strong image of the child.  This means believing that children are capable and curious. Children have a natural desire to explore the world around them and make sense of it. With the Reggio philosophy, children are encouraged to become researchers and to explore their environment and world around them. What could be better than exploring the hundreds of acres of grounds at the Village, watching the seasons unfold around them, being influenced by the symmetry of the building architecture, and feeling the legacy of peacefulness?


The child as a collaborator. REA is focused on children collaborating with each other, with teachers, and with parents on projects and activities.  Children are able to construct their own approaches to learning by collaborating with their peers.


The child as a communicator. The Reggio approach promotes the concept that children have “The Hundred Languages” through which to express themselves.


The environment as the third teacher. “It has been said that the environment should act as a kind of aquarium which reflects the ideas, ethics, attitudes and cultures of the people who live in it.  This is what we’re working toward.” ~Loris Malaguzzi


The teacher is partner, nurturer and guide, as opposed to the disseminator of knowledge. The teacher is a co-constructor of knowledge, assisting children in developing questions of the world around them and pursuing the answers. The teacher is the supporter of the competent child.


The teacher as a researcher. The teacher observes and listens to children discovering clues and developing strategies that support the learning of their students. This is a continuous process as all children approach learning in different ways and in their own time frame.


Documentation as communication through photographs of student activity, transcriptions of student remarks, and representations of their thinking enable learning to be visible. This documentation is organized and displayed for students and parents to see and guides the work and experiences of the children.

The parent as a partner in their child’s education. Family and parent participation is expected, supported, and essential for student success.

Play-based Early Learning

According to the American Association of Pediatrics, “play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.Every child deserves the opportunity to develop to their unique potential, child advocates must consider all factors that interfere with optimal development and press for circumstances that allow each child to fully reap the advantages associated with play.”

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