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Sunnymont Parent Co-op

771 Waldo Road
Campbell, CA 95008

(408) 871-7350


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based, Co-op

From the Director:

We believe that our job as adults is to set up the environment to encourage children's learning experiences, and then facilitate the children's exploration and play. We allow children to play freely, pursuing their own interests, but we do plan curriculum experiences and provide the materials for children to make the most of their exploration. We stand by to guide children's play to ensure that 'bodies and hearts are safe', to ask them questions and provide materials to expand their play and pursue their interests. Sunnymont is a children's world, but adults are very aware of children's development and provide experiences to enhance and guide that development. We do provide group circle times, as well, but they are (very) flexible.

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
  • Chalkboard for children's use, blank books for children to
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense more

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  • Puzzles
  • Counting books, stories and songs, picture calendars, posters, etc
Time & space more

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  • Calendars and clocks
  • Parquetry blocks, pegboards, and mosaic toys
  • Building blocks
  • Many manipulative toys of various types, daily schedule, motor skills activities, etc.
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
  • Periodic projects around science themes, books, garden, rocks for bug hunting, etc.
Music more

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  • Musical instruments
  • Songs, song books, piano, CD's, dance props, wind chimes, etc.
Visual arts more

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  • Materials such as paint, ink, paintbrushes, crayons, markers, chalk, paper, etc.
  • Art work on the walls
  • A daily visual art project plus painting, outdoor art, combinations of art/science or art/literature studies, special projects, etc
Physical activity more

More Information

  • A playground with climbing equipment
  • Bean bags, balls, and other objects that children can throw, kick, and play
  • Tricycles
  • 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
  • Outdoor play on rainy days, specific motor skills projects, dance, movement at circle times, tactile activities, sensory activities, etc.
Other subjects taught Social/emotional learning and skills

From the Director:

Teacher leads circle times which include songs, stories, group discussions, finger plays, drama, but most of the children's time is spent at play with activities available at stations for play and exploration, and available materials for free play in many areas. Curriculum areas that happen primarily at group time also happen throughout the children's play, and vice versa, of course. "Some structure" includes adult-designed activities and exploration areas, flexible group circle times, limits designed to keep hearts and bodies and materials safe but open to negotiation. Adults are always on hand to "encourage" kids learning, extend their play, give them things to think about, and help them process their experience, but the children take the lead by doing what kids were intended to do: explore and play!

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

By offering materials which lend themselves to use at different levels. For example, in the block area, one child might be learning simply how to share the physical space, another to compare and contrast shapes and sizes, another to build complex structures. By providing materials and interaction to the children as they play, we try to meet each child's individual needs. Some children need a bit more attention at times, and that's OK. All children have areas of giftedness and areas of struggle. It is our job as adults to know each child and provide for his individual needs at school, while supporting parents in meeting these needs at home.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

Sunnymont is a parent co-operative nursery school for children 18 months to 5 years 11 months old where children are valued just as they are, where parents and children learn together, where teachers and parents work together to enhance each child's cognitive, physical, social, emotional and creative growth.

Sunnymont is a developmental, child-centered, play-based enrichment program for children, combined with a relationship and responsibility-based parent education program for parents.

Our goal is to set up an environment where children can experience learning opportunities though their play and through their interaction with other children and adults.

This means that:
- At Sunnymont, we encourage children to have as many experiences in as many areas as possible. We know that children are naturally driven to learn; this is what children do all day long!
- Everything that a child does is designed by nature to build up brain connections that lead them to become competent at physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills.
- The adults' job is to set up an environment that allows children to participate in planned and spontaneous play in all of these areas. Our children go home messy and tired after a full day of work (play!).

Our indoor and outdoor classroom includes playdough, blocks, manipulatives and building activities, art, music, literature, science, sandbox, riding toys, climbing, sensory, cooking, dramatic play, a writing center, water play, woven into opportunities for social and emotional experiences and growth.

We encourage children to use materials creatively, to participate in taking responsibility for their environment, and to consider the impact of their actions on others.

Sunnymont is a developmental, as opposed to an academic, program. However, this does not mean that academic skills are not a part of the curriculum. Rather, a developmental curriculum means that all curricula, including social, emotional, physical, and cognitive, a portion of which is referred to as "academics," is taught in a manner we believe to be most appropriate to what we know about children's development.

Children do not work like adults do, and we believe that children learn best through their play and through pursuing their interests. For example, rather than using flashcards or a letter of the week in nursery school, we set up the environment to allow for children to gain experiences with the alphabet (and in all curriculum areas) in the way that children learn best: through play and exploration.

Teachers frequently attend conferences and seminars to learn the newest discoveries about how children learn and how we can best support that learning for all children.
At Sunnymont, adults and children learn together. Parents work in the classroom as teacher's assistants, learning from the teacher and from each other about child development and how to best support the children's growth.

Because we have more adults in the classroom, parent co-op programs like Sunnymont can offer more activities and more individual attention to the children than traditional, non-cooperative programs can.

Each class benefits from the creativity and energy of many adults working together. Children make many adult friends and learn from their mentoring. Parents build knowledge of children's development and confidence in their parenting through both their work in the classroom with many different children and their participation in our evening parenting classes.
The cultural diversity of our school is viewed as an important opportunity to teach our children about diversity and respect. Sunnymont is home to families of most of the world's major religions, and an incredible variety of different cultural and language backgrounds. This makes for a wonderful chance to acquaint our children with the idea that all families are the same in some ways and different in some ways, that some people believe (xyz) so they choose to and other people believe (xyz) and so they choose to.

Adults model curiosity and respect about each other to our children. We encourage our families to share their cultures and languages with the children, and we try to include each other in our celebrations and customs.

Discipline is viewed as a part of the curriculum rather than an interruption to it. Misbehavior is the result of a child's attempt to meet his needs in a manner detrimental to himself or others. Sunnymont adults help the child learn ways to meet his needs that will work well, and help him to build the self-control necessary to act on those good intentions. Children are not punished, but are guided and supported as they practice social skills, while the adults make clear that our first priority is to keep everyone safe, hearts and bodies, and that we will step in to make sure this happens.

We believe that the more successful children feel after a problem, the better they are able to use new skills for success in the future. Conflict is viewed as an opportunity to practice conflict resolution skills, and time is taken to allow the children to be full participants in this process.
At Sunnymont, individual differences are accepted and cherished. We believe that each adult and child among us is a package deal of gifts and struggles, and that each of us deserves to have our gifts acknowledged and our struggles supported. No one is expected to be perfect, and we are all expected to continue learning.

Teachers help parents to learn about temperament, multiple intelligences, and personal styles of all the children, and how to best meet the needs of each in the school environment.

Similarly, children and families with exceptional needs (all children have special needs simply because they are individuals) are welcomed and supported at Sunnymont.

Our community is proud to work together to meet the needs of individuals, and believe our children all benefit from seeing us do so.

Our teachers frequently participate in the IEP process for children in need of extra services, and our families are excellent sources of resource and support for each other.

At Sunnymont, all children are welcomed and embraced. We also recognize that some children (and adults) are born with easy temperaments, and others with more difficult temperaments, and that this is a normal part of being human. Parents are expected to embrace the chance to learn from working with a variety of different types of children.

When a child needs extra supervision to ensure children's feelings of safety, the staff and parents work together to provide a guardian angel to support the child. Just as a guardian angel flies just ahead of her protected one, taking him out of harm's way by taking care of the danger before he meets it, so a Sunnymont Guardian Angel flies along side their protected child or children, helping him or them to be successful in the experiences they encounter during their day at Sunnymont, minimizing mistakes and maximizing success and safety.

No child or family will be asked to leave the school unless we are unable to appropriately support the child with all of our best efforts. In this unlikely case, the advisory committee and staff will make a recommendation to the executive board, which will decide on the action to be taken.
At Sunnymont, we are all learners. We strive to create a relaxed but organized environment where children, parents and teachers all learn together through play and interaction. By giving our children opportunities to play and explore under adult guidance, and giving our parents and teachers opportunities to learn from the children and from each other, we hope to create a supportive, child-centered learning community which enriches all our lives.

A Typical Day

Each class has a different schedule, but this article written by Sunnymont's toddler class teacher is a great example.

My Day At Sunnymont:
How Play is Learning A Toddler's-Eye View

As I enter Sunnymont my teacher greets me, "Hi, I notice you look excited today." She listens while I tell her all about my grandmother's visit. We put my nametag on together, after I find the right letter combination or sticker. It feels great to be welcomed, acknowledged and cared about. When I feel secure and emotionally relaxed, my brain is much more able to take in new concepts and process new learning experiences. I can learn much better from an adult I trust and love, and I've already started by using language with her as she listened and asked me questions that made me think.

After washing my hands, (which is always a fun way build neural pathways by processing the sensations of the water and soap on my hands, as my brain plans how I will move my hands), I go straight to the playdough table. Here I can sit and observe the rest of the classroom until I feel comfortable to venture out. After all observation is a form of participation and I know that practicing skills for dealing with stressful situations will benefit me for my whole life.

The playdough is very tactile to punch, pull, poke, twist, and squeeze. It is relaxing and calming after a hurried ride to school. Hey, the muscles in my hands and arms are getting stronger. That will probably help me to hold a pencil when I'm ready to write.
Oh, I see a friend in the house area I've been looking for. I rush right past the block cabinet thinking I'll get back to that later. I do hate to miss the geometry, one to one correspondence, number values, shapes, spatial relations, gravity, balance, problem solving and cause and effect block building offers, but I can save those experiences for later.

I can work on my social and emotional skills in the dramatic play area today. I walk up to the babies and realize that my friend is holding my favorite doll. I grab the baby by the legs and pull, quite hard, because I'm very determined. A dad comes over and acknowledges my feelings of anger and desire for the baby as he also reassures my friend. He holds the baby so my friend and I can problem solve without hurting each other or the doll.

I'm so glad he was there, not only was I feeling mad, when I started to grab the doll away I actually got a little scared. We work out a way for my friend to use the doll first and me to wait for my turn. The dad is helping me find something to do while I wait. It is so hard to wait and I'm still a little sad about not having the doll right now. My plan was to be the mommy so I could reassure the baby it would be OK, when we go to the doctor's, that it might hurt a little bit but the hurt would stop.

I stop to think how wonderful it is that I can learn skills like these in two ways; by interacting with adults, and then by practicing taking on the roles in my play.
I feel hungry so I head to the cooking/snack table. I know that besides getting some nourishment I'll be able to socialize with friends, practice pouring, measuring, cutting, peeling, stirring, watching thermal reactions, fractions, conservation of number and exposure to new cultures and vocabulary through food.

Wait, I see small and large oval things in a bowl that are several colors and have speckles. I wonder what they are. Oh, I hear a parent telling another friend that they are eggs; I didn't know eggs came in different colors. I'm not that fond of eggs, but someone is eating them so maybe I'll give it a try. I sit down to serve my self a raw egg, crack it into the bowl, mix it up with a little milk and take it to this hot plate (I hear them calling it a grill). I pour my liquid egg onto it, and yikes, my egg is changing. It looks more whitish, and harder and I can scrape it up into a pile now. The heat must be doing something to the egg. Time to eat the egg, but another child has put some type of sauce on his eggs. I'll try it. Hmm. People from different cultures like the same things even when they're new to them!

Well it's group time and although I know some of my best learning happens during self directed play when I get to choose what I'm working on the music, movement, stories and being together in a large group do help me learn language, problem solving skills, listening, turn taking, and anytime I move my body my cognitive abilities increase 50%.

Oh, it's one of my favorite songs, All Fall Down. It feels good to remember this song and know what to expect next. First we kick, and then fall down. Now we're reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar were I get to help count the fruits the caterpillar is eating.
Yeah, it's outside time where I can be more carefree and use louder voices and bigger movements, sometimes it hard for me to be in control of my body for too long. And of course, I've been looking forward to the chance to practice balance, body stability, motor planning, bilateral body use, and large motor skills, and large muscle coordination that will help me control my body with less effort so I'll have more energy for those listening and thinking activities.
Oh, no class is over already. In the 2.5 hours worked on my curiosity, self-esteem, language, math concepts, science, problem solving, logical thought, conflict resolution, creativity, gross and fine motor skills.

It's OK; my parents will bring me back to Sunnymont again.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Parents work in the classroom each week, and so they and the teacher often connect informally about the child's progress, parent and teacher priorities and concerns.

Parents and teachers also share telephone calls and emails. Additionally, parents often ask questions at our monthly evening parent classes.

In the spring, a parent/teacher conference is held at which the teacher more formally presents the child's progress and goals. We provide as much support as each family desires.

General information is provided to all parents, and specific thoughts about each child are shared with his/her parents. Usually there is quite a bit of discussion about kindergarten choices and options.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Sit on the board of trustees
  • Hold social events at the school to build community
  • Fundraise
  • Are required to make donations ourselves
  • 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:

  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Small group sessions
  • Parents in classroom early on

Handling Separation: From the Director

We encourage parents to stay with their child for as long as the child needs it. (If the child is fine and the parent needs it, we give them a hug and send them off to Starbucks to cry into their coffee anyway.)

We help the parent to transition out, by staying further from a child's play, by leaving for a short period, etc.

We encourage children to connect with other 'special parents', often their carpool parent, so they have adults they are comfortable with each day.

Teachers support children at separation. We convey to them, "It's hard to say goodbye, and you can do it," and "I'll help you while you're sad."

We encourage parents to leave sympathetically but casually, assuring their child that they'll be back and the teacher and parents will take care of him while they are gone. Worried parents are encouraged to phone school to check on their child after they've left.

Children's sadness at separation is acknowledged and supported. We don't tell them that they'll "be fine and have fun at school" but rather that "it's hard when Daddy leaves. I'll help you while you're sad."

We help the child transtion into play, and then help him notice that he his mood has shifted. "Hey, you were sad when your dad left, and now you're playing. How did you stop being sad?" to help children learn that feelings are transient and that they have strategies for handling sadness.