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Griffin Nursery School

2410 Prince Street
Berkeley, CA 94705

(510) 845-2025


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

  Play- based mostly teacher led not formally in curriculum conducive environment
Language       more

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  • Tracing paper and other writing instruments
  • A well-stocked bookcase
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense more

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  • Puzzles
Time & space more

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  • Calendars and clocks
  • Parquetry blocks, pegboards, and mosaic toys
  • Maps
  • Building blocks
Sci. reasoning/physical world more

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  • A place for science activities such as growing plants
  • Pets for children to watch and care for
  • Found pets such as slugs, snails and spiders
Music more

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  • Musical instruments
Visual arts more

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  • Materials such as paint, ink, paintbrushes, crayons, markers, chalk, paper, etc.
  • Art work on the walls
Physical activity more

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  • A playground with climbing equipment
  • Bean bags, balls, and other objects that children can throw, kick, and play
  • Enough room for children to move around and play and a suitable indoor alternative to the outdoor playground on rainy days
  • Sandboxes and/or water stations for play
  • Scooters
Other subjects taught

From the Director:

The idea that the physical environment and the children's unique proclivities and learning styles combine to determine what is learned in a nursery school is lately called 'emergent curriculum.' Griffin Nursery School was one of the first preschools in the Bay Area to dedicate itself to this child-led, adult-assisted approach to learning. When a special interest arises, the staff extends it through literature, dramatic play props, and art materials. One spring, for instance, there was so much interest in ballet that we bought several complete audio recordings, made costumes, and built a stage. This group spent their last day of preschool performing Giselle from start to its sad but magnificent end. Another group became 'birders,' taking local walks to spot birds through their handmade binoculars and making wooden birdhouses at our carpentry table. Griffin is also organized into learning areas and equipped with materials that challenge every aspect of a young child. When a group of children builds a city of unit blocks, for instance, the participants are gratified by the act of applying their knowledge to the creation of something exciting and meaningful; they are getting rudimentary lessons in physics (bigger blocks have to go on the bottom) and in math (two little blocks can substitute for a big one); they are taking part in a social effort that requires give-and-take; and they are getting practice in the kind of symbol-making that paves the way for the more abstract thinking necessary for reading, writing, and math. Dramatic play, building, music, dance, art, conversation, story dictation, gardening, climbing, swinging, scooter-riding, and sand and water play fill the children's days. A spirited group time, featuring music, dancing, games, discussions, stories, yoga, and occasional 'guests artists,' is offered at the end of each session. However, though we take pains to enrich our program and gear it toward the individual and collective needs of each classroom of children, the most absorbing aspect of school for ALL our youngsters, year after year, is establishing a life of interests and relationships that radiates outward from the sphere of home and family. Extracted from Griffin Nursery School website.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

The tides of education have flowed for centuries between imposed structure and internal structure; teacher-directedness and child-directedness; Froebels Conservatism and Dewey Progressivism; Back-to-Basics and Open Classrooms; back and forth, mixing, creating derivatives.

Early childhood education is itself a progressive, interdisciplinary field, and all preschools, including Griffin Nursery School, have the same beliefs:

* that young children are purposeful individuals who learn by doing;
* that they learn through concrete experiences, through their senses;
* that they move through universal developmental stages that have been described by various models, but that they also have unique temperaments and learning styles;
*that play is the predominant mode in which children invent, practice, and extend who they are;
*that a good education tends to children in all emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and creative respects;
*and that children need to feel competent, useful, and appreciated in their families and in their communities of peers.

A distinct characteristic of Griffin Nursery School, though, is the strength of its commitment to John Dewey's progressive model of education as a student-driven affair, in which children learn most effectively through the demands of their social context.

Because of her conviction that three- and four-year-olds are especially suited to self-directed exploration and that they move through predictable stages of socialization,

Elinor Griffin always kept her classes markedly free of routine; and the results resembled and continue to resemble a Summerhill-style free school.

The one change that has emerged in recent years is the 'class meeting' model of Jane Nelsen (Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, 1984), which provides a structure for the community democracy that emerges from the children's social experiments.

We have found that getting the children together once a day to get acquainted, practice being members of a community, and hammer out class issues has been valuable for us all. But generally speaking, the teachers do not determine the children's agendas. The role of the staff is to give love, respect, and affection, to provide safe and secure boundaries, and to help children develop their relationships, their play, and their skills.
Extracted from Griffin Nursery School website.

A Typical Day

The mornings are different from the afternoon The bulk of day is free play. Lunch is a matter of choice. Last call for lunch before group time. Each session ends with group time.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

The school offers parent teacher meetings and phone calls.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Are able to visit the school anytime we want
  • Go on field trips
  • Volunteer in the classroom
  • Receive newsletters

Modes of Communication

  • Notes
  • Phone Calls
  • Voice Mail
  • Email
  • Special Meetings
  • Two or More Regular Conferences
  • Drop-Off
  • Pick-Up
  • Regular newsletter/printed updates circulated to the whole school


Separation is Handled through:

  • Extra staff dedicated to handle separation
  • Abbreviated schedule at start of school year

Handling Separation: From the Director

Individualized. We don't encourage parents to stay long.