The Cooperative Nursery School Experience
West Village Nursery School, founded in 1962, is a cooperative nursery school and an institution of early childhood education within the community. It is owned and operated by current parents and housed in a building the school has owned for more than 50 years. Now in its sixth decade, WVNS is a member of ISAAGNY and staffed by a professional director and experienced teachers with master’s degrees in early childhood education. The director, teachers and staff have full responsibility for the educational program. Parents share all other tasks, including admissions, fundraising, house maintenance and technology. A commitment of time and interest is essential.
The Cooperative Experience
In contrast to fast-paced, family life in the city, the WVNS cooperative program offers a deep and purposeful experience for both parents and children alike. We have found that young children respond positively to their parents’ active involvement in school affairs. When parents are directly involved in the classroom, children become acquainted with many warm and caring adults outside their immediate family. Consequently, at an early age they begin to build a picture of the outer world as safe and friendly.
By working in the classroom, parents gain a deeper understanding of their own children as well as of child development more broadly. Parents’ anxieties are often eased when observing interactions of a group of children the same age. (Other three-year-olds grab toys!) Parents also develop insights into those aspects of growth still awaiting their child, such as opportunities for developing autonomy, self-expression, self-assertion or self-control. Being in the classroom allows parents to observe the teachers as they help children solve problems, resolve conflicts and make progress, giving parents a wealth of knowledge. Parents develop a new understanding of how children think, perceive and react. It is an enriching experience.
The most unique contribution that parents make to WVNS is working with the teachers in the classroom. Each class is staffed by two teachers and two parents. Parents are scheduled in the classroom on a rotating basis, averaging twice a month. Even in households in which both parents hold jobs outside the home, this system has proved workable. If necessary, a parent may hire a substitute from a list provided by the school. Parent participation, however, is significant to the child and to the tenor of the school community, and the school recommends that substitutes be used only in emergencies.
This parental involvement not only keeps the tuition at a reasonable level but also brings home and school closer together, creating a closely-knit community that fosters friendships among parents as well as children. The parents’ diverse professional skills and creative talents enrich the quality of their children’s educational experience. Along with classroom participation, all families are expected to work on committees that meet a variety of other needs and participate in fundraising events that provide funds for scholarships and capital improvements.
At the same time that the children are busy learning to be solid members of a classroom community, a parallel process develops for their parents. Starting with the weekly discussion groups in the 2s class-parent workshops, the school facilitates the growth of friendships among the adults. Parents discover how much they have in common as they share the ups and downs of child rearing. They give support to each other and develop close bonds. The staff member who serves as the discussion leader provides a broader picture by helping to put children’s behavior into a developmental perspective.
By observing the teachers in the 2s workshops and by assisting the teachers in the 3s and 4s classrooms, parents have a unique chance to get to know a team of highly experienced early childhood professionals at work. Seeing teachers in action and observing how they talk to children provides a good model for parents. Putting these observations into practice and helping the teachers constitutes an apprenticeship in early childhood education. Moreover, it enlarges parents’ focus, as they learn to care about all the children in the group.
West Village Nursery School is a member of the Parent’s League, ISAAGNY (Independent School Admissions Association of New York) and DECA (Downtown Early Childhood Association). The school is also licensed by the State of New York.
WVNS graduates attend a variety of public and independent Pre-K and Kindergartens throughout the city. In the past 5 years, our alumni have attended:
PS 3,11,41, 234, 150, M 363- Earth School, PS 212 Midtown West
Brooklyn public schools
Academy of St. Joseph
City and Country
Grace Church School
LIttle Red School House
St Luke’s School
United Nations International School
Village Community School
World Class Learning Academy
St Ann’s School