By Mariglynn Edlins, Professor and CPP Parent
My partner, Geoff, and I found Community Play Project late last summer as we frantically searched for a preschool option for our son, Bergen. After two years as a stay-at-home-parent, Geoff found out that he would begin teaching college courses in the fall and we knew Bergen, currently an only child, would benefit from being around other kids more regularly. We also knew we didn’t want something incredibly expensive or overly focused on traditional learning. In grad school, I’d written my dissertation about children in institutional settings, primarily American education systems, and I couldn’t bear the idea of sending my child—especially a boy—into a heavily structured environment. As such, we weren’t as concerned with a preschool where he’d learn the alphabet or master classroom behavior. Instead we wanted him to play, develop his confidence and learn to be around other kids.
Community Play Project presented a viable option. We were enamored by those Scandinavian adventure schools—or outdoor schools—often profiled in magazines, and CPP is as close as we can get to that for Bergen. The cost is reasonable and, lucky for us, we snagged a spot.
A play-based preschool for kids 2 to 5 years old, CPP employs a Reggio-inspired program— it aims to be child-led and child-focused. The faculty believes “a messy child is an engaged child.” So, on a day-to-day basis, the kids set the pace and type of play: they get dirty; they take physical and social risks; and they go outside, rain or shine. The instructors focus on supporting individual experiences for each child, based on physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as language and literacy development.
Because Community Play Project is focused on each individual child, it’s probably a good fit for all kid personalities. And since the activities are child-led, one kid doesn’t have to conform to other kids for the classroom to be successful. Some kids in Bergen’s class were very talkative and others very quiet. They also ranged from rambunctious to reserved.
However, since the focus isn’t on those traditional academic tasks like the alphabet, numbers and colors, Community Play Project may not be best for parents primarily concerned with what all kids “should” learn in preschool.
We were thrilled with Bergen’s first year at CPP. He didn’t start off as the most active or advanced kid in the room, but that was never a problem. He played at his own pace and his teachers celebrated each milestone he reached in his own time. The teachers focused on supporting his adjustment to other kids, as well as his social and language development, and he blossomed in the freedom.
As a 3-year-old now, Bergen will be attending CPP three days a week in the fall and we can’t wait to see how dirty he’ll come home each day.
Published in Baltimore Style, October 13, 2016