"The Missoula Community School is a warm & caring learning environment where…
a diverse and challenging curriculum inspires children to explore, create and care.
innovative and committed teachers help children make connections to learn & grow
a low student-to-teacher ratio provides a personal learning environment
parents are important and valued members of a learning community."
Excerpted from the preschool's website
"A Day at the Community School
It's 7:45. The first arrivals enter the school for Before School Care and are greeted warmly by the Morning Teacher, who invites them to paint, work with puzzles, or read stories together. Over the next hour, a few more children arrive, hang up their belongings, and join the Before Care group.
At about 9:00, the teacher helps the children put away their work, and leads them upstairs to Community Time. When they walk in, they are greeted by teachers and possibly a few friends, who are already busily working with blocks, painting, or visiting a project table. The whole school is several weeks into a study of Mexico, and at one project table, children are gluing together adobe bricks-made several days earlier of mud and straw-and building cities. At another, children are mixing cocoa into snow to make the treat reserved for Aztec rulers. At still another, older children are inventing pictographic symbols to represent their name. Children move easily through the several rooms, visiting the Dramatic Play area to wear regal costumes, stopping at the Writing center to make a secret note for a friend, taking a break at the Snack Spot to eat a bit from their lunchbox. Teachers visit with children, adding names or dictation to artwork, reading stories to a small group who've gathered in the book corner, marveling together at the floating city children have built to represent the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, suggesting projects a child might want to try.
At 10:30, a bell is rung to signal Cleanup Time. Everyone works together to get the school ready for the rest of the day, and when everything has been put away, the teacher sits on the carpet, begins a song, and, in just a minute, everyone has joined her and Circle Time has begun. After a few favorite songs, the teacher explains that she has brought several kinds of food for children to try. The amazing thing, she adds, is that they are all made of corn, which the Aztecs cultivated so long ago. The children taste a corn tortilla, corn chip, corn bread, popcorn, and a 'corn nut'. After tasting, the children each vote for their favorite item by adding their name to a chart. Each child has a chance to speak, telling the group which they preferred. When all the votes have been cast, the children count with the teacher, comparing the number of votes-corn chips win!
When circle is over, at about 10:45, children go with their Small Group teacher to their home base. Teachers and children start Small Group Time together with a chance to speak or share, and then each group begins its activity for the day.
Today, the Monkeys (mostly 3 years old) are leaving school to walk to the Art Museum where there is an exhibit on self-portraits. While there, they'll use mirrors to work on making their own self-portrait.
The Snakes (mostly 4 - 4½) are making corn muffins after reading the story "If You Give a Moose a Muffin". While the muffins are baking, the group tells its own version of the story, which the teacher writes down and the children illustrate.
It's a Sports day for the Unicorns (mostly 4½ -5), so they've taken the Mtn. Line bus to Bitterroot Gymnastics several blocks away.
The Dragons (mostly 5 - 6) are hard at work on the maps they've been creating for the past few days. After a discussion about maps -- that touches on, among other things, why 'x' marks the spot, how a round earth can be on a flat map, whether it matters if things are the same size on a map as in real life, and how one might show "unknown' on a map - the children work to add words and names to their maps, occasionally asking the teacher for assistance in identifying a sound in a word.
Small Group time ends at 11:30, and the children come together again to eat Lunch. Friends from different Small Groups seek each other out to sit together; some children prefer to sit alone, others to sit by a teacher.
As children finish eating, (usually around 12:00) they head downstairs with a teacher in groups of six or eight to get ready to go Outside. The children and teachers play outside for about an hour, running and climbing, imagining and building, chasing and swinging, talking and watching, exploring the playground through all the seasons. This is a beautiful day, so they stay outside a little longer, and each Small Group goes back inside with their teacher a little after 1:00 for Quiet Time.
No one is "required" to fall asleep during Quiet Time, but it's been a busy day, and some children do. Each Small Group rests in its own space, while the teacher reads or tells stories, sings soft songs, plays quiet music, rubs backs, and helps children fully relax. Children who have finished resting look at books, draw, tell stories for teachers to write down (and which will be acted out later), or use manipulatives like legos or pattern blocks. By about 2:15, most children are finished resting and Afternoon Choices are underway. Children staple paper together to make books, work side-by-side to use every single pattern block in an intricate creation, roll and pat play-dough. The choices are simpler and more limited than during Community Time, and the children are relaxed and busy. Several times a week, two or more Small Groups end Afternoon Choices early to do Storyacting, in which stories children have dictated to a teacher come to life. Other days, Afternoon Choices end at about 2:45.
For most children, the MCS day is nearing its end, and to mark the end of each day, children and teachers gather for Closing Circle. Each child in turn has a chance to share something for which they are thankful. A child may also choose to say "pass", but each knows that they, too, will have a turn to speak if they choose. At circle's end, some children leave the circle with the After School Care teacher while others head home with their parents.
For children who stay in After School Care, it is time for relaxing, playing, reading, sharing and creating in a cozy, close-knit group with the After Care teacher until their parents arrive by 5:30.
Excerpted from the preschool's website