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The Valley School

309 31st Avenue E
Seattle, WA 98112

(206) 328-4475


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based

From the Director:

At the Valley School, we believe that children rarely learn and develop at the same rate. Each child is treated as an individual, and teachers work with their students in ways best suited to their particular stage of development and learning style. Social, emotional, and physical needs are a continuing focus as well, since children learn best when they are happy and secure. [Excerpt from The Valley School Website]

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

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

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  • Tracing paper and other writing instruments
  • A well-stocked bookcase
  • a multitude of changing media that match and extend students' learning modalities
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense more

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  • Puzzles
  • patterning, sequencing, number correspondance, and spatial reasoning are all facilitated with tactile and pre-symbolic materials
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
  • As science is naturally connected to the way that children explore the World, the Valley School environment builds on children's curiosity, sense or order, and construction of their knowledge.
Music more

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  • Musical instruments
  • Music is integrated with drama both within the class, and along with older students across the campus.
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 [As excerpted from The Valley School Website]: The preschoolers enjoy weekly visits from our French teacher. They do much listening and interacting with games and movement as they are introduced to colors, numbers, animals, foods, clothing and other topics of interest. Other weekly events include a trip to the library to borrow books and meetings with specialists in visual art, music, and movement.

From the Director:

[As excerpted from the Valley School Website]: The preschool children are nurtured within their own distinct classroom, but are also included in the school community, joining the whole school for weekly sing-along sessions, attending performances put on by other classrooms, and playing with a wide range of children on the playground. Older children often participate in the preschool classroom, coming in individually to read to younger children, or to show a skill or activity, as occasions occur. The classroom is set up in a harmonious way. Areas are clearly defined and activities are in place when the children arrive each day. There is a separate space for housekeeping activities and dressing up, and one for block building. An easel is set up for painting. A woodworking bench for hammering, sawing and building, and a sandbox that may be filled with a variety of materials are often available to encourage sensory exploration. There are books to look through, as well as paper and drawing utensils, real clay from time to time to work with, Play-Do and rolling pins. To this rich, but organized environment, the child is welcomed each day. The materials may vary somewhat depending upon the season and other activities, but these basic materials are the real stuff of the preschool curriculum. In the course of the preschool year, the child's work with these materials will grow in mastery and self-expression.

Quality of Teaching

Individualized Teaching: From the Director

At the Valley School, we believe that children rarely learn and develop at the same rate. Each child is treated as an individual, and teachers work with their students in ways best suited to their particular stage of development and learning style. Social, emotional, and physical needs are a continuing focus as well, since children learn best when they are happy and secure.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

The Valley School believes that the preschool years are those crucial years on which the foundation for all later learning is laid. Our understanding leads us to provide a program which will encourage each child to grow at his or her own rate in all areas. We offer a welcoming first school experience where each child is accepted for him or herself; there is no certain type of child we are looking for. Each child brings unique experiences, interests and personality traits. In the classroom, they are gently led from the initial world of home to feel at ease within the wider world of school, one that includes peer relationships, supportive adults, and a sense of belonging to the greater school community. [Excerpt from The Valley School Website]

A Typical Day

The Pre-Kindergarten Day

The pre-kindergarten day is organized in such a way as to provide a sense of routine and to allow for active and restful periods. When the children first arrive, they are greeted individually and enjoy an hour of work with the materials in the classroom, as detailed above. The children are free to choose their own areas of interest, but the teacher provides guidance so that the flow within the room is comfortable.

A limit of children at one time at such areas as the block and housekeeping nooks allow for all the children to have ease of access to materials. After this first work of the session has taken place, the children are ready to join in a circle for songs, a story and snack. Then it is time to go outside to explore in what we like to think of as our "outdoor" classroom. We go outside in most weather, a light rain included. Children need to wear comfortable warm clothing that can take a bit of sand and mud.

We stay outside for thirty minutes, sometimes longer if the children are wishing more time. When we come inside, the children come to the circle again for our theme time. We explore together our current topic of interest. This may involve looking at signs of the season, learning about transportation, studying a community helper such as the fire fighter, exploring a holiday, or learning about our bodies, new babies in our family, farm animals, whales, or the rain forest. Our topics may vary from those within our classroom to others further away. Each topic is chosen to reflect something real in the child's world. A display of items related to the topic helps to hold our interest and to be a place to highlight related materials. We talk about what we are learning, show pictures, and read books related to the theme. Creative dramatics has a place here.

After our group times of theme and related activities, the children have a quiet settling down time when they draw in blank notebooks. At this time, the children are encouraged to tell the teacher a story about their drawing if they so desire. These stories are recorded in the children's books and are important records of their developing mastery of oral language.

In summary, our pre-kindergarten program maintains those standards upheld by the classic tradition of a developmentally appropriate early childhood education. We realize that while technology and times have changed, young children have not. We believe that the best way to prepare children for a challenging future is to give them a secure beginning from which to proceed. [Excerpt from The Valley School Website]

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

There are scheduled parent teacher conferences in both the spring and fall. There is little distance between parent, teacher, and administration at the Valley School. Parents and teachers communicate easily and regularly about all elements of a child's school life.

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
  • Parents in classroom early on

Handling Separation: From the Director

Children and parents visit both the Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms prior to the first day of school. The first day of school is a half day with the parents on campus for a morning get-together. Parents and teachers work openly together to make sure each child's transition is happy and successful throughout the opening weeks of school.