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Cow Hollow School

65 Funston Avenue (The Presidio)
San Francisco, CA 94129

(415) 921-2328


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based, Reggio-Emilia

From the Director:

Parents of 2/3-year-olds are partners in the classroom by supporting the teachers a few days each month. Parents teaching alongside teachers and a low adult-child ratio affords parents an opportunity to closely observe, learn from and with their children, and guide their experiences with support and direction from experienced teachers. As a result of this unique setting, partnership and experiences, learning, teaching and parenting are enriched and transformed.

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

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

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  • 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 Outdoor Experiences, Exploration and Discovery: Playing in nature with a discussion of what belongs in nature/what doesn't are experiences that honor the child's sense of wonder, curiosity, and belonging. The teachers guide children as they 'learn to see' the beauty and drama of the natural world so that they my gain an appreciation for, and develop a relationship with, nature beyond the houseplant and sandbox. Symbolic and Dramatic Expressions: Through symbolic and dramatic play children experiment with different roles and personalities. We provide a variety of costumes, props, puppets, dolls, and fantasy environments for the children to use for improvisation, exploration and creation. Project Work: We dedicate a significant amount of time each day to expanding upon the children's long-term interests and projects. Children are encouraged to think deeply, ask questions, and explore materials and activities related to their projects. The ongoing process is documented, studied and valued.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

Because of our low teacher-child ratios, small class-size and teaching parents in the classroom, we are able to carefully identify children who might need attention and provie necessary guidance.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

The school supports the belief that children learn through play, exploration and discovery within the context of nurturing and reciprocal influences of children, parents and teachers. Our curriculum is based on the constructivist philosophy in which children construct knowledge and understanding from authentic experiences-they are encouraged to explore possibilities, invent solutions, collaborate with others, and try out ideas in the context of meaningful experiences. These real-life experiences make connections that inspire and provoke, and foster inquiry and critical thinking.

A Typical Day

At the beginning of each day the children gather with the teachers and teaching parents to greet one another and share in a group experience that may include conversation about the encounters and experiences from the preceding days, information about projects and daily activities, stories and songs. We remember, share, reflect, offer and establish meaning together. The children pose problems to the community and collaborate on potential solutions and mutual understanding. Parents are encouraged to join and share with the children at this time. Children explore the classroom, continue previously started projects and work in small and/or large groups. The structure of activities, resources, and interactions within the classroom are organized in such a way to provide children with comfortable and familiar routines, yet at the same time, there is an emphasis on play and child-initiated projects. A variety of rich and authentic materials such as shells, wood, fabric, clay, collage materials of interesting color, size and texture are available. Snack is intended to provide, in addition to wholesome nourishment, an opportunity for children and adults to gather together. Children engage in active play, movement activities and dance, both outdoors and inside the school. We also take advantage of the beautiful Presidio on a daily basis. A trip to Crissy Field, a nature hunt for shapes, a tree investigation, the discovery of a sow bug in dirt, overturning a stump, impromptu trash pick-up with a discussion of what belongs in nature/what doesn't are experiences that honor the child's sense of wonder, curiosity, and belonging. We employ an outside Music Specialist to introduce instruments, rhythm, patterns in music, and songs to the children. Music is also integrated in the children's project work throughout the day. During the course of the school year we will have various guests, programs and trips connected to the children's project work. Some of these may include: visiting musicians and artists, and trips to museums.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Parent/Teacher Conference: Two conferences will be scheduled each year to discuss your child's progress (mid-year and in the Spring). Parent Education Evenings: This lecture series is offered as opportunities to disperse and gather information regarding parenting, teaching, concerns, questions, child development, etc. Topics include Conflict Resolution, Responsive Language, Observing Competencies, Encouraging Self-Esteem and Relationship Building. Home Visits: These optional visits have been organized to help make the transition from home to school more comfortable for the new younger children. Two weeks prior to school starting, the teachers will visit your home, at your convenience, to met your child, discuss routines and get to know your family. Classroom Journals: Online journals for each class are written weekly by the teaching team. They include an update on projects, curriculum, special discoveries and conversations that are guiding the children's learning experiences. Reading the journals each week with the children can act as a bridge from school to home and as a memory tool for your child's meaningful experiences. Family Books: To help bridge your child's home experiences to those at school, each child has a Family Book to fill out and decorate over the summer. The book will stay at school during your child's school experience (growing and changing every year) and will act as a tool to allow adults and children to make important connections and build relationships with your child. It will be used to promote memory, as a historical reference, and to encourage shared meaning making and compassion. Brown Bag Lunches: Parents and the Director will choose topics in advance for small roundtable discussions. Documentation: Gathering, organizing and presenting project work provides opportunities for the children to revisit their experiences, helps them appreciate the process of creating, and helps them understand the meaning of their experience and build upon it. The documentation process also exists to enable parents to learn more about their child's progress and development. CHS holds a Kindergarten Information Night to provide each family with a substantial packet of materials to inform, prepare and help guide parents through this process. In addition, we hold a Kindergarten Orientation, have regular parent meetings throughout the process, and share resources and information. Our school website serves as another vehicle for kindergarten information and parent discussions.

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:

  • Home visits by teachers
  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Small group sessions
  • Parents in classroom early on
  • Abbreviated schedule at start of school year

Handling Separation: From the Director

Optional Home Visits help make the transition from home to school more comfortable for the new younger children. Two weeks prior to school starting, the teachers offer to visit your home, at your convenience, to met your child, discuss routines and get to know your family. The first day of school is shortened, and parents of the 2/3-year-old are required to stay to help with the transition. Throughout the school year, parents are welcome to stay with their child to help with any separation issues. The teachers work with parents to come up with solutions to help their child overcome separation.