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Our Philosophy

Two children play outside in a playhouseLearning Through Play

Children learn best through play! Research has shown just what children have known all along: the best way to nurture young thinkers is to support meaningful play experiences. What does this look like in a nursery school? In the large block area, children learn mathematical concepts and how to work cooperatively. In the dress-up area, they develop their imagination and cultivate language and emotional skills. At the water table and other sensory centers, children learn science—the properties of water, volume, or gravity. In the reading corner and writing center, children cultivate oral and written literacy and fine motor skills. Playing outdoors, children develop gross motor, social skills, and knowledge of the world around us. After having played at UCNS for a year or two, your child will emerge well-rounded and ready for kindergarten, and have had a lot of fun along the way!

“Play is the highest form of research.”
— Albert Einstein

Two children press apple cider while a teacher looks onWhy a Parent Cooperative?

At UCNS, families and teachers work in partnership to support the growth and development of the children. Children greatly benefit from family involvement in their school. Every day, our two teachers and two parent helpers work together at UCNS (our 4:1 student to adult ratio is one of the best in Ithaca!).  The teachers design and implement the school curriculum, while the main job of parent helpers is to play with the children! Parents come in to help 1-3 times each month, depending upon how many days a child attends. These days are fun days for the children and create special memories that you will always share. The parent cooperative aspect of UCNS fosters a close knit environment for children and families.

In addition to helping in the classroom, each family is asked to:

  • serve on a committee or the board
  • attend two general meetings a year
  • help with two clean-up days each year
  • help with any fundraising projects the community decides to undertake

At UCNS, we believe that a parent cooperative preschool supports the growth and needs of our students, but also greatly benefits families, staff, and broader school community. Parents who are new to the cooperative model are often amazed at how much they learn each day at UCNS! The teachers and staff at UCNS view themselves as learners too, growing and learning each day along with the children and families. Our close knit community has developed many friendships that have lasted for years!

Nine children playing outside on and around a large pile of sand.