At Union Congregational Weekday Nursery School, children interact in a rich, nurturing environment designed to stimulate their curiosity about the world and to encourage learning through exploration and play. Within each individual class, the daily schedule and the classroom environment are arranged to give the children opportunities to express their interests and build confidence in their natural abilities and intelligences. Our curriculum is inspired by the Reggio-Emilia approach and New Jersey state standards for preschool. Our focus is on the value of documentation as a means to communicate and the importance of an authentic, child-centered environment which is rich in creativity, providing a wide variety of interactions with people and materials. We make every attempt to meet each child at his/her level, and to identify special strengths and the need for support.

maskWithin each age group are developmentally appropriate opportunities for learning. Our Reggio-inspired curriculum is evident in the physical organization of each classroom, where the classroom is regarded as a third teacher.  An atmosphere of invitation is created by teachers, in which the children can explore and develop ideas. Some children express great interest in areas of Language Arts, and are supported in the desire to write and read. Others are drawn to the blocks, where they experiment with Math and Science concepts. All children have materials available to sustain their interests, and teachers continually provide materials and experiences which scaffold familiar areas. The resulting child-driven activities, guided and supported by teachers during the course of each school day, continue over many days, weeks, even months.

The children’s work and interactions create a model for learning where they are encouraged to make decisions, solve problems, make friendships, and develop independence and responsibility. Activities involve arts and crafts, dramatic play, indoor and outdoor play, language, mathematical concepts, music and nature. Our Children’s Garden serves as an outdoor classroom where children are free to observe, inquire, and deeply explore their understanding of the world around them. Experiences are documented in wall panels displayed in the hallways and classrooms, along with photographs, the children’s words, and teacher’s interpretations. This communicates that we believe children are powerful, social beings, in charge of their own learning. We feel privileged to guide and support them on their journey.

The strength of our curriculum is evident in the ways that children at Union Cong are able to listen to each other’s ideas and to express their own, to look for details in the natural world, and to express this cognition in many creative ways.