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Small Friends School

7475 SW Oleson Rd
Portland, OR 97223

(503) 388-2266


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Welcome to Small Friends School. A non-profit organization that has been part of the Southwest Portland community for over 20 years, we provide developmentally appropriate preschool and kindergarten programs to children, ages 3 – 6. We believe children are active, capable, and willing participants in their education for life. They learn best within the context of supportive relationships, through active exploration and investigation, and develop skills in social and natural learning situations. Our classrooms provide ample opportunities for children to play, problem solve, observe, predict, explore and create to construct their own understanding of the world around them.

Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based

From the Director:

The foundation of our preschool curriculum is based on the value of relationship, language, play and investigation. We use the guidelines established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children as the backbone in our efforts. We see children as active learners who learn best through direct interaction, exploration, investigation and play. The environment is set up to reflect this viewpoint. Children have access to a wide variety of activities - blocks, water table, texture table, dress-up, paint, play dough, writing, stories - and the teachers engage in these activities with the children to listen, observe, ask questions and extend their thinking. Our kindergarten program is an extension of this philosophy. It is, by nature, a more academic approach but concepts are always presented in hands-on, developmentally appropriate contexts. Curriculum is based on the Oregon Department of Education's goals and guidelines. Children have focused math and literacy time and science/health/social studies concepts are integrated. Music is integrated daily, art is both integrated and taught separately and children go to PE once a week. We visit the library weekly as well.

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

  Play- based mostly teacher led not formally in curriculum conducive environment
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense
Time & space
Sci. reasoning/physical world
Visual arts
Physical activity
Other subjects taught Preschool: A significant portion of our school day is dedicated to play and exploration. Children spend the first 1.5 hours of their day engaged in activities of their own choosing. During this time, they also work in pairs or very small groups with a parent volunteer on an art and a math/science project. These projects often go with current seasons or themes and are selected based on their relevance and developmental appropriateness. Projects are open-ended. We are more concerned with the thinking processes children employ during an activity than we are the final product. At the close of free exploration, children help in cleaning up the room and join the teachers for stories, songs, and other literacy-development activities. They have gross-motor time every day - outside on the playgound as the weather allows, or in our gym room. There is also a daily snack. Kindergarten: Children begin the day with singing and then spend an hour on whole and small-group math activities. They go outside to play, come in for a snack and then move to literacy activities. These include letter/sound work, guided and individual reading, journal writing, word work, and more. They have about 30 minutes each day for free exploration and play with many of the same choices described above in the preschool section.

From the Director:

We believe that children enter our doors eager to learn. It is our job to guide that learning, insuring that they are equipped with the social, intellectual and emotional skills they need for success in elementary school. We recognize that every child has his/her own unique learning style and pace and we value a full range of strengths and abilities.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

Preschool: Each classroom has up to 18 children with 2 full-time teachers and 2 parent volunteers. While parents facilitate pre-prepared activities with pairs of children, teachers move throughout the room and engage with children in a variety of ways. They might assist a child at the writing center with letter-writing, read stories to a small group of children on the couch, help students at the invention table work through construction challenges or assist children in social problem-solving. In all cases, assistance is given based on the individual child and what they need at that particular time. Concepts are introduced as children demonstrate readiness for them and ranges in development are valued and respected.

Kindergarten: This curriculum is more teacher-directed but still includes opportunities for children to pursue topics of their own interest. Math concepts are presented in a specific sequence and revisited throughout the year. Literacy concepts are presented in a variety of contexts and children have ample opportunity to read, write and communicate effectively. Instruction is individualized and our goal is that each child makes a year's growth in a year's time.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

We believe children are active, capable and willing participants in their education for life. Children learn within the context of relationships. Children learn through active exploration and investigation and develop skills in social and natural learning situations. Children are active \"meaning-makers\" of their world who effectively use play, active exploration and investigation, problem solving, observation, prediction, and other skills to construct their own understanding of the world around them.

A Typical Day

Preschool: Children arrive with their families, check in and enter the classroom. Parents are welcome to walk their children in and help them get settled into the room. For the first 1.5 hours, children are given time to play and explore. There are a variety of activities that are available every day (blocks, painting, writing, reading, play dough, dress-up, dolls/house area, invention table, puzzles, texture table, water table), and others that change every few days depending on current themes and interests of the children. During this time, children also rotate through 2 parent-facilitated activities in the areas of art and math/science. These activities are completely prepared for parents before the start of the school day.
When exploration time is over, everyone helps to clean the room and then children gather together at the rug for songs, stories, movement and other literacy-building activities. This is followed by snack, outside play time and a closing song.

Kindergarten: Children check in, come together on the rug for singing, and go over the schedule for the day. They have about 60 minutes of math time, go outside (or into the gym room) to play, come in and have a snack, have 30 mintues of literacy activities, 30 minutes of free choice, and end the day with about 30 more minutes of literacy activities. Science, social studies, health, music and art are integrated frequently and intentionally. PE is offered once each week.

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

Because parents bring their children to school, they have daily opportunities to see what's happening in the classroom and visit with the teachers. Our preschool families receive monthly class and school newsletters. Kindergarteners receive weekly newsletters, Friday Folders with work samples and the monthly school newsletter. Kindergarten families also receive report cards 3 times during the year, two of which include a parent/teacher conference.

Parent volunteering is required for our preschool program, which gives parents a wonderful opportunity to be part of the classroom about once a month. There is no better way to see what your child is doing at school! Volunteering is not a requirement for our kindergarten program but parents are always welcome in the classroom.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Hold social events at the school to build community
  • Are able to visit the school anytime we want
  • Volunteer in the classroom
  • Receive newsletters

Modes of Communication

  • Notes
  • Phone Calls
  • Voice Mail
  • Email
  • Special Meetings
  • Drop-Off
  • Pick-Up
  • Regular newsletter/printed updates circulated to the whole school


Separation is Handled through:

  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Extra staff dedicated to handle separation
  • Parents in classroom early on

Handling Separation: From the Director

We know that separation anxiety is a very real part of early childhood education experiences and are very supportive of both the child and the parents as we navigate through this together. We do not have a specific protocol for helping children with separation anxiety. Rather, we have a variety of strategies that we apply based on what works for individual families. These include parents spending time with the child in the classroom, teachers or parents helping children get engaged upon entering the room, or time on the couch to cuddle and read. Please know that if this is a challenge for your child, we will work through it effectively and supportively together.