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Children's Day School

333 Dolores Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 861-5432


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based

From the Director:

We follow the guidelines for early childhood teaching developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Guided by research about how children most easily develop and learn, we practice developmentally appropriate teaching. In a developmental approach to teaching, teachers know that decisions about what should be learned, and how and when it would best be learned, vary by child. At CDS, preschoolers learn through play. Play is children's work; it is the way that young children discover, interpret and come to understand the world. Through both cooperative and independent play, children explore, test ideas, acquire information and draw their own conclusions. For example, imagine a group of children building a block structure. During that activity, students are simultaneously learning fractions, cooperation, taking turns, the properties of wood, making plans, disappointment, acting as a leader or follower and the excitement of completing a project. Children need an environment with opportunities for active exploration and involvement. We provide this through our use of developmental learning centers. Both indoors and outdoors - in our rich playground and farm and garden areas - teachers create learning centers designed for different developmental activities. These centers allow children to pursue their interests at their own pace and engage in meaningful activities that lead them to learning in a natural, yet directed manner. Classrooms have specific areas for art, music, sensory exploration, reading, listening, building and using manipulatives. Spoken and written Spanish is routinely infused into the program. The children's interaction with these materials, with each other and with their teachers in thoughtful, directed play nurtures the development of the whole child and ultimately fosters growth of early reading, writing, math and science skills, laying the groundwork for successful future learning.

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
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
  • 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
Other subjects taught We offer a Spanish program, beginning in preschool, that is designed to foster a love for speaking Spanish. We begin by focusing on the development of receptive skills (listening and mimicking) before focusing on speaking and writing. In preschool and kindergarten, Spanish is fully integrated into the curriculum by having at least one native Spanish-speaking teacher in each classroom. These teachers use a variety of educational approaches throughout the school day to teach Hispanic culture and common Spanish phrases including songs, games, music and stories. We offer an environmental education program, beginning in preschool, because we recognize that an intimate relationship with nature is critical for a child's full development. Our large, sunny schoolyard features an organic garden and farm, home to chickens and sheep, that give children daily opportunities to experience first-hand the connections inherent to a healthy ecosystem, as well as to develop a sense of place and season. The CDS environmental education program has three educational objectives for our students: 1. To cultivate empathy for animals and plants in the natural world. 2. To explore academic topics within a real-life context. 3. To develop the skills necessary to be stewards of the environment.

From the Director:

Children's Day School means great teaching. Our teachers love to teach, creating environments and designing lessons every day that make sure each child is appropriately challenged and experiences the love of learning. We provide a mixture of challenging activities that are open-ended to allow for individual preferences and abilities. Each of our classroom curriculum areas contains a variety of exciting learning materials for all of the children, regardless of age or cognitive and physical abilities. For instance, you will find manipulatives on the shelves that lend themselves to being sorted, classified, counted or used for dramatic play. A two-year old may pretend to have a farm using different colored animals, whereas a five-year old may choose to sort the animals by species, color, size or continent of origin and then count the number of animals in each set. Letter blocks in the environment can be used to build with or to spell out names. Subjects and skills are integrated, or taught simultaneously. Learning takes place through the active exploration of real-world topics that are meaningful, concrete and relevant to the students. For instance, during a sheep and wool project, the children increase their vocabulary when they learn the different breeds of sheep and parts of the spinning wheel, and their Spanish vocabulary is increased when these terms are translated. Note-taking on clipboards and dictation are used to help children further work on their language and writing skills. Reading skills are increased when books about sheep and wool are read and made available to the children. The children use math skills when they go out to the CDS farm to measure the sheep and weigh the wool, and when they sort photographs of sheep by breed. When children make drawings of the CDS sheep, they improve their observational skills and their fine motor abilities.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

Our mission: Children's Day School recognizes that every child is born with unique gifts. Our mission is to develop each student's genius by providing an inspiring environment where challenging academics are inseparable from social, artistic, and physical experiences, and where children of all backgrounds feel safe to be themselves, become avid learners, and strive to make a difference in the lives of others.

Our program: Our educational program encourages curiosity, exploration, cooperation, risk-taking and a love of learning. It is integrated across academic disciplines and incorporates a project-based approach in which our students develop academic skills through inquiry and collaboration.

Each day, teams of gifted teachers guide our children to find the fun in every new task and to excel academically as they take increasing responsibility for their education and their future. Our students develop a sense of caring for self, for others, for the community and for the world as they become creative thinkers, skilled mathematicians, accomplished artists, strong writers and rigorous researchers.

They graduate confident in their strengths, unafraid to struggle and prepared for the challenges and opportunities that await them.

Our values: The Children's Day School community nourishes and celebrates diversity, promotes justice and respect for all people, and aspires to act always with integrity, compassion and generosity.

A Typical Day

We strive to promote and help develop children's decision-making skills by enabling each child to practice making choices. This is reflected in a daily schedule that is designed to maximize the choices students make and minimize the choices adults make for the students.

As much as possible, learning takes place through the active exploration of real-world topics that are meaningful, concrete and relevant to the students.

This is the schedule for a typical preschool day at CDS:

8:00 - 8:30 Morning transition into classroom

8:30 Morning meeting
Includes a good-morning song, attendance, calendar, jobs, discussion of the current classroom project and introduction to new songs and activities.

9:00 Indoor/outdoor work time
Children choose from a variety of activities in the curriculum centers both inside the classroom and outside on the yard. These may include reading, dramatic play, science, woodworking, writing, building with blocks and project-related work.

In addition, during this time children may create artwork with one of our art specialists, work in the farm or garden with our environmental education resource teacher, make music with our music specialist or participate in physical education with our physical education specialist.

This time also includes access to a self-help snack.

11:00 Lunch

12:00 Nap/rest
Children rest on mats on the floor using blankets provided from home.

12:45 Quiet inside work time
Children choose from a variety of quiet indoor activities that may include reading, observational drawing and quiet construction activities.

1:20 Indoor/outdoor work time
Similar to the morning work time, children choose from a variety of inside and outside activities.

2:00 Afternoon meeting

2:15 - 2:30 Dismissal

All-school assemblies are held on Fridays at 8:30 a.m.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

CDS seeks to enroll students whose families are eager to make a real commitment to our school, and who will support their children in their quest for increased responsibility.

We communicate with parents in a variety of ways: Preschool teachers send a weekly e-mail to each parent with a photo of their child working at school and an update on their progress. Parents participate in two mandatory parent-teacher conferences during the year - one in August, one in January. Progress reports are mailed home at the end of each semester - in January and June. Learning goals are posted in each curriculum center of the classroom. Parent education classes are offered regularly. Teachers communicate regularly with parents - in person, over the phone or via e-mail.

Our preschoolers continue in our own K-8 program.

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

Handling Separation: From the Director

Each classroom team holds a parent-teacher conference during the week before the first day of school. Families visit their child's preschool class for an hour on the day before the first day of school. Teachers talk with parents over the phone, as needed, before the first day of school. On the first day of school, parents transition out of the classroom between 8-8:25 am with the help of the teachers, as needed. Teachers communicate frequently with parents during the first few weeks of school.