Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -Yeats

Putting Theory into Practice

How students experience our theory and philosophy




Teachers prepare the environment so children can learn through active involvement with various materials, other students, and teachers. Numerous learning centers, both inside and outside the classrooms, are available on a daily basis, for children to engage in: blocks, hammer and nails, various art centers (e.g., painting, clay, collage), music/dancing/instruments center, dress up, dramatic play, gross  motor equipment, animals to hold and care for as well as observe (besides the many insects and tiny critters in our flower garden), library/book corner, book making/writing center, table/carpet toys and manipulatives, outside play equipment, and sand & water play.


These non-teacher directed learning centers are designed to be creative, open-ended, process oriented experiences which span the ages, allowing each child to pursue self-directed activities which are appropriate to his/her development. Depending on the goals and needs of the activity or children, teachers observe and move among groups and individuals to validate and facilitate children's involvement.

The Atrium: Mixed age learning centers,

where children are challenged to develop their ideas and grow their creativity.

CURRICULUM Experiences are provided to stimulate socially constructed learning in all developmental areas: physical, cognitive/academic, social, emotional, spiritual, and creative which will nurture children’s development of A.R.C.: Autonomy – being the author of ideas and bringing them into manifestation; Relatedness – connecting with self, others, and the world with ever expanding awareness of the inherent eco-systems in which we live; and Competence – acquiring skills, tools, and strategies for successful living. With the synergistic interaction of A.R.C. children joyfully learn how to learn, developing the necessary elements for being a lifelong learner. Underlying all interactions and activities are our goals: to foster the development of self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-confidence, autonomy, personal empowerment, caring relationships, creativity, competencies, connectedness, meaning, and positive feelings toward learning. Our social constructivist curriculum is emergent and integrated, relying heavily on Gifted Education principles. Learning centers, short/long term projects, discussions, and playful/creative activities (initiated by the children as well as the teacher) reflect current interests of the children and our school community. Relevancy and meaning are fundamental qualities of our curriculum. BALANCE OF ACTIVITIES Experiences with the self-selected and self-directed learning centers described above are balanced with teacher-directed activities, e.g.: personal sharing, group discussions, project work, music and movement, story time, language arts, math, science, art, social/community living, self/intrapersonal knowledge, P.E., etc. This balance allows children frequent opportunities to work as individuals, partners, small groups, and large groups. With opportunities for self-selection and self-direction, children learn to recognize the importance of their actions as they experience the effects of their choices. Herein lies the difference between growth-producing freedom and chaos. Entrusting responsibility to the child encourages self-awareness, recognizing others’ needs and perspectives, de-centering, communication skills, problem solving, decision making, autonomy, and a feeling of competence and trust in oneself. Since the pre-school child's development requires active, direct involvement we recognize that teacher directed activities take on a secondary and perhaps for many pre-schoolers an uninteresting/unimportant role. Therefore, participation in teacher-directed activities by pre-schoolers is not expected. They are invited to participate in teacher-directed activities as one of the many opportunities offered. All of the children will never be interested in what a teacher has planned at any specific time. With support and guidance from teachers, pre-school children are able to choose those activities which best fit their present developmental levels and allow them to meet their own needs. Teachers are able to spot children's interests and follow them through, taking children's ideas one step further—to build on what's already there. Tremendous opportunities appear in "teachable moments." The teacher can take advantage of the children's excitement in their environment. Mastery of academic skills are not stressed but are available for pursuit by the interested preschooler, along with other opportunities for development. The emphasis at the preschool level is on constructing knowledge of self -- personally, socially, emotionally, physically, and extending that to relationship with others – with just one friend, with a small group, with the immediate classroom community, and with the entire school community. Everything from a snail in the garden, to what has been brought for lunch, to a conflict between friends, or even missing mommy or daddy, becomes a learning experience. NON-GRADED, MULTI-AGE CLASSROOMS At del Sol (ages 3-12), children's individual development is honored as they are grouped according to developmental maturity rather than age. The multi-age grouping of each classroom allows children to develop according to their own timetable, decreasing the need to compare and judge progress by narrow, short term expectations. Children learn a great deal from each other. Often, they learn more than they would from adults. They often observe the struggle of their peers. They see their peers try and fail, try and succeed. Seeing others, they don't have to be afraid to make their own mistakes and learn from them, too. Another very important advantage is that the child's feeling of belonging and security is strengthened by not having to adjust to a new teacher and new classroom each year. There are many very positive aspects of multi-age grouping for the youngest to the oldest student. We invite parents who want to know more to read The Case for Mixed Age Grouping by Lillian Katz. You can order a copy from the National Association for the Education of Young Children or an Internet bookstore. SNACK Children are encouraged to listen to their own body needs, to become aware when they are hungry and when they are not. Since children bring their own fully prepared snack from home it is desirable for children to eat when they are hungry, as long as this decision does not conflict with any simultaneous small or large group activity of which they are a member. Classrooms typically schedule a ‘break time’ where children may eat snack as a social group. The timing of this is not fixed, but occurs organically as the morning unfolds. LUNCH Lunchtime is a relaxed, free choice time for eating, socializing, playing, and for continuing joyful discovery and creativity at the outside centers for all our students. The two older classrooms go off site to play at one of the two parks just across the street a few days each week. Children bring a packed lunch from home. QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE Please keep in mind that our teachers’ primary responsibility is to the children and they may not have time to speak with you and answer all your questions. If the answer to your question would be better addressed by a classroom teacher, Rick can arrange for an after school hours telephone conversation with the appropriate teacher. AFTER OBSERVING –WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP? If you would like to observe additional days in order to see more aspects of our program or spend additional time in a particular classroom or two, you are welcome to do so. Just speak with Rick to arrange this. Or, you may want to call a few parents on the Liaison List for their perspectives (see white Orientation folder for names and phone numbers). Or, you may want to pursue the literature on the Prospective Parents’ Reading List which indicates how dS's philosophy extends to parenting and family living, creating the unique home-school partnership which is dS's exciting mission. This Reading List serves as the road map of our application process. So, if you are interested in applying, please ask Rick for the Reading List.