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La Piccola Scuola Italiana

728 20th st
San Francisco, CA 94107

(415) 558-9006


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

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

From the Director:

Children learn best through discovery and active engagement. They actively construct their own individual understandings by making choices, observing and experiencing the effects of their actions, and reconciling that with what they knew and understood before. We work with children's natural curiosity and creativity by providing stimulating activities and a variety of materials that appeal to all of their senses. Our curriculum is a 'negotiated curriculum,' -- that is, while teachers bring ideas to the children, we also observe the children closely and reflect thoughtfully on their words and actions. We then act on our observations, following up with related 'provocations' and materials so that children, too, create curriculum daily.

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
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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  • 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 La Piccola Scuola Italiana provides a family-style Italian lunch (3 courses: primo, secondo and frutta) and makes cooking and nutritious meals an important part of our curriculum. We use organic food whenever possible and buy only hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and dairy products. Lunches are prepared on-site, and the children are involved occasionally in food projects.

From the Director:

Our curriculum is Reggio Emilia inspired. We work with children's natural curiosity and creativity by providing stimulating activities and a variety of materials that appeal to all of their senses. At La Piccola Scuola Italiana children encounter art, science, math, movement and music - in an environment that is rich with language and infused with Italian culture. Here children learn social skills in a supportive community where we know one another well and can respond to individual needs. Through our every day interactions, children learn responsibility and kindness both as individuals and as members of a group.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

We believe that every preschool child progresses at a unique pace and pattern - and even the most 'typical' child has phases during which s/he might be described as 'behind' or 'excelling.' Our low ratios and our Reggio Emilia philosophy both support individualized attention and allow us to work with every family to identify appropriate goals for each child.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

La Piccola Scuola Italiana is a Reggio Emilia inspired Italian-immersion program that provides very young children a joyful and developmentally appropriate environment in which to learn and grow. Our mission is two-fold: (1) to provide the highest quality, progressive early childhood care and education, and (2) to build a community in which children can experience lively Italian language and authentic Italian culture. Here are some of our goals. These goals apply equally to children and to adults at La Piccola Scuola Italiana. ~ To experience joy and discovery daily. ~ To be active and engaged in learning and exploration. ~ To feel proud and content with ourselves. ~ To learn to be kind and to make wise choices. ~ To be flexible and responsive to individual people's/families' changing needs. ~ To engage all senses and provide a varied and balanced 'sensory diet.' ~ To live Italian language and culture daily. ~ To create a sense of community and belonging, of friendship and kinship.

A Typical Day

La Piccola Scuola Italiana's classroom environment is organized by 'learning centers,' such as the writing table, the housekeeping area, the blocks corner, etc. Center materials are rotated regularly to provide new and engaging activities that challenge and delight us all.

During open choice time, children choose where and with whom to play, which allows each child to develop at his or her own pace and to discover new interests at different times of the year. Our daily routine consists of both child-initiated and teacher-directed activities. We believe that how the children direct themselves is strongly influenced by all the choices that teachers make - from what activities to propose, to the presentation and display of materials, to how we interact with children during their play or how we support resolution of social conflicts. Likewise, the teacher-directed activities are strongly influenced by what we know about the children, by the choices they make and by the needs children express to us verbally and non-verbally. This sort of RECIPROCITY is fundamental to our approach to early childhood education.

In a typical day, children work with: Art , Drama / Dress up, Blocks & Manipulatives, Cooking, Music, Writing / Drawing, Tactile Exploration, Outdoor Experiences, Reading, Small groups, Large group, One on one with a teacher . The exact routine of the day depends on which group your child is in.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

There are many ways in which we adults stay on the same page about the kids. Before school starts, there are phone conversations and a whole-group parent meeting (during which parents and teachers agree on a set of 'goals' for the year together). During the year, teachers and parents communicate informally on a daily basis during drop-off and pick-up times, as well as by email as needed. At any time, if either the parents or the teachers want, an in-person conference can be arranged. In addition, in the 2s, 3s, and 4s groups, we also hold semiannual (2x per year) parent-teacher conferences which include written documentation of the child's experience at school. In the Spazio Gioco Mommy and Me playgroup, parents have to be very involved and most of the communications are informal in nature. We keep portfolios for the children while they are at LPSI, the contents of which are given to the family upon 'graduation.' We have several community-wide events each year including a fall picnic, a big Christmas party, and a spring picnic. In addition, many parents take our Italian for Parents classes (all levels).

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
  • Extra staff dedicated to handle separation
  • Parents in classroom early on

Handling Separation: From the Director

This depends very much on the individual circumstance. We work with each set of parents and caregivers to create a plan that will work for each child. Our goal is harmonious separations. Parents are never rushed when saying good-bye. We set a time when all parents leave simultaneously so that children feel that they are all 'equal'. Children are never left to cry alone and are always looked after and held when upset.