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The Growing Place

401 Ashland Avenue
Santa Monica , CA 90405

(310) 399-7769


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

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

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

From the Director:

'The Growing Place believes that education should focus on each child in relation to a community of others, rather than each child in isolation. Our curriculum emphasizes the development of children's social skills, including building friendships, respect for others, conflict resolution and advocating for one's needs and ideas. Our goal is to promote self-esteem and problem solving abilities, which helps children gain the confidence to face new experiences.' -- Extracted from the Growing Place website

Day in the Life

General School Mission

'The Growing Place is committed to providing the young children of working families with an exceptional quality, all-day, year round education program. We are a learning community sustained by a close collaboration of parents, teachers and students.

We believe that children are competent learners, capable of engaging fully with ideas and the world around them. We are committed to hiring, developing and supporting the best teaching staff possible. Teachers and children research and co-construct knowledge, foster curiosity, and experiment with many ways to express ideas. Teachers use documentation of the process of learning to revisit the children's ideas and to include parents in the life of the school. Through the continuing evolution and enrichment of the Growing Place sites we acknowledge the role of the environment in children's development.

Growing Place teachers have been studying and implementing some of the Reggio Approach methods. Following are some of the ideals and methods that we have incorporated into the Growing Place philosophy:

The child as protagonist. Children are strong, rich and capable. All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity, and interest in constructing their learning, negotiating with everything their environment brings to them. Children, teachers, and parents are considered the three central protagonists in the education process.

The child as collaborator. Education has to focus on each child in relation to other children, the family, the teachers, and the community rather than on each child in isolation. There is an emphasis on work in small groups. This practice is based on the social constructivist model that supports the idea that we form ourselves through our interaction with peers, adults, things in the world, and symbols.

The child as communicator. This approach fosters children's intellectual development through a systematic focus on symbolic representation, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, and music, which leads children to surprising levels of communication, symbolic skills, and creativity. In this way, they make their thinking visible through their many natural 'languages'.

The environment as third teacher. The design and use of space encourages encounters, communication, and relationships. There is an underlying order and beauty in the design and organization of all the space in a school and the equipment and materials within it.

The teacher as partner, nurturer and guide. Teachers facilitate children's exploration of themes, work on short- and long-term projects, and guide experiences of joint, open-ended discovery and problem solving. To know how to plan and proceed with their work, teachers listen and observe children closely. Teachers ask questions, discover children's ideas, hypotheses, and theories, and provide occasions for discovery and learning.

The documentation as communication. Careful consideration and attention are given to the presentation of the thinking of children and the adults who work with them. The documentation serves many purposes. It enables children to revisit their experiences. It makes parents aware of their children's learning processes. It allows teachers to better understand children, to evaluate their own work, and to exchange ideas with other educators. Documentation also shows children that their work is valued.

The parent as partner. Parent participation is considered essential and takes many forms. Parents play an active part in their children's learning experience and help ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. The ideas and skills that the families bring to the school and, even more important, the exchange of ideas between parents and teachers, favor the development of a new way of educating, which helps teachers to view the participation of families not as a threat but as an intrinsic element of collegiality and as the integration of different wisdoms.' -- Extracted from the Growing Place website

A Typical Day

7:30-8:30 Ocean Park site opens. Arrival and greeting time, parent-staff connection, quiet activities, breakfast snack

8:30-9:15 Outdoor free play, teachers available to assist with separation

9:15-10:40 Morning circle, choice time in learning centers, upper rooms

10:40-10:50 Transitions and clean-up time.

10:50-11:30 Small group 'special friend' evaluation circles: upper rooms

11:30-12:00 Play/exploration time, outside areas

12:00-12:45 Transitions, toileting, lunch

12:45-1:15 Transitions, toileting, story time

1:15-2:30 Relaxation practice, rest time, staff lunch, preparation and meeting time

2:00-2:30 Playtime outside for upper room non-nappers

2:30-3:00 Wake up routines, toileting, snacks

3:00-3:30 Large circles, games, music, transition to outside

3:30-4:00 Outside free play

4:00-5:00 Enrichment activities, individual choice indoors/outdoors

4:50-5:10 Cleanup, transition

5:10-5:50 Indoor story time, quiet individual choice activities

5:50-6:00 Cleanup, farewells, parent connection -- Extracted from the Growing Place website

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

'We believe that adults play an important role in the development of young children, not only in transmitting knowledge and values, but by providing the emotional base from which a secure child can move out into the world as a learner and a 'doer'. Parents are a child's first and most important teacher. Our staff provides an opportunity for children to interact with different adults who are trained to facilitate learning and offer care and comfort in the absence of a parent. We see ourselves, however, as partners and never replacements for parents. We know that parents entrust their child to us for but a brief period; it is they who are in there for the long haul. Since parenting is such a complex job, we offer support to parents in each stage of the child's development. Teachers, on the other hand, rely on parent for information about their child, their goals, family values and traditions, and to support the Growing Place program. Teachers have the responsibility and the skills to work with children in a group, helping them to learn problem-solving, perspective-taking and multiple ways to communicate their ideas and feelings. Teachers also are critical to creating the 'context' for collaborative learning in which children stimulate each other's development by working together in play and on projects of mutual satisfaction and fun. The tuition contract requires that all families participate in at least one quarterly school maintenance day ('Pitch-In' Day) and that each parent work a three hour shift in the program's fundraiser, the Ocean Park Dino Fair or Marine Park Family Festival. Parents are also required to contribute ten other volunteer hours to the program. Typical tasks for the ten volunteer hours include washing sheets, picking up library books, repair and maintenance of equipment, secretarial work, fundraising, or being a room parent. We welcome any special talents you may have.' -- Extracted from the Growing Place website

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


Handling Separation: From the Director

'Admissions and Enrollment Procedures: Step 1: Orientation Tour Tours are conducted for prospective parents and visitors on a regular basis. It is not appropriate to bring children to these tours as this presentation is intended to give adults an overview of our philosophy, program, teaching methods, and physical layout. The tour lasts approximately one hour. Once accepted, children may visit classes prior to their start date. Please check the 'Calendar' section of this site for Orientation Tour dates. Step 2: Registration Packet If you decide to apply for a space for your child, you need to complete FORM A: Application Form and submit a $75 application fee. Your child will be added to the waiting pool upon receipt of this non-refundable application fee. Step 3: Letter of Acceptance When space becomes available, we will notify you and arrange a specific starting date for your child to enter the program. At this time, we will require a non-refundable enrollment fee and deposit to be applied to your child's last month of tuition. This deposit secures your child's space on his or her specific starting date. Step 4: Pre-Attendance Visits Once they have submitted an application, parents may schedule a visit to see the program during a working day. Both programs schedule an intake visit for parents only prior to your child's start date. Once you have accepted a space by signing a contract, we will invite you and your child to an open house picnic to visit the school in August. As your child is not yet enrolled, parents are responsible for their children, and your child needs to be reassured that you will not be leaving him/her for even a few moments. Step 5: First Week of School We try to gradually introduce new children to the program so that each one gets the necessary attention to become comfortable at the school. Each child is assigned to a 'special friend' circle teacher or primary caregiver. We require that parents plan to spend the time necessary in the first three days with their child to help with the transition into school. This often requires arranging in advance to take some time off from work. Both parents may participate in this process. During these three days, we ask that parents observe different parts of their child's day, not just three mornings or three afternoons. As part of this connection from home to school, we ask that children bring a photo of themselves to be used on their cubbie, a photo of their family and loved ones (grandparents, favorite sitters, pets), a lovey (blanket or favorite teddy for nap time), and extra clothes for messes and 'accidents'.' -- Extracted from the Growing Place website