Mommy/Daddy & Me Group—Play, Bond and Move With Your Child at The Cottage School

The Cottage School’s popular  Mommy/Daddy & Me Spring Session starts soon!

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The Cottage School offers parents and caregivers a simple  interactive group experience for their children—aged 1-24 months. Held in a warm, nurturing environment that’s firmly centered around The Cottage School’s philosophy, the play group offers storytelling, folksongs, talks, and gentle movement in a quiet and calming environment.

If you would like to participate in this wonderful program please send an email to jessica@thecottageschool.net , and please download and fill out the registration form. The suggested donation for each 6-week session is $50.

We encourage you to escape the house, meet new friends and discover the simple creativity that abounds at The Cottage School:

  • Sign up for our Spring session held February 20th through April 10th from 9:30-10:30 AM(Note: no meetings will be held on March 17th and  April 3rd). 

Why Cottage Elementary School?—What makes our kids so happy to come to school each day? Discover all that The Cottage School has to offer students from Kindergarten through 8th grade

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The Cottage School will be hosting an informative session for current and prospective parents who are interested in the elementary program for their children on Monday, February 5th from 9:30am to 11:00 AM.

Our students enjoy school and are engaged members of our community because their individual curiosities and creativity are nurtured in a non-competitive environment. The Cottage School emphasizes the learning process, forming patterns of learning in an environment that is free from pressure, which is a unique quality in today’s achievement-obsessed educational culture.

 A private school based in Gladstone, New Jersey, the elementary program at The Cottage School teaches students aged 5 through 14, with its unique, well-rounded academic program, which integrates the traditional subject areas of language arts, literature, foreign languages, mathematics, natural sciences, world studies, and the arts. The Cottage School has developed its own curriculum and materials to exceed academic expectations on many levels using an interdisciplinary approach, while still covering all NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards. This is complemented by a wide variety of after school enrichment programs, including athletics and language immersion classes.

 The Cottage School Difference: In the elementary program, our students develop a love of learning sustained by a spirit of discovery at a pace that accompanies each individual child. Students’ innate abilities and learning interests are nurtured in a cooperative, non-competitive environment—free from tests or academic competition. The emphasis in the elementary program is on the joy of discovery, sustaining academic curiosity, and embracing experiential learning to maximize creative thinking, rather than on the rote memorization and the recitation of isolated facts. We encourage our students to ask questions, think out-of-the-box, take risks, and embrace mistakes, which all aid in building a strong foundation for innovative thinking. Without using textbooks, The Cottage School’s teachers do research and study from original material, which encourages their students to do the same. The result is an engaged, mutual effort to go deeper in knowledge.

 Nurturing Individual Growth: At The Cottage School, academic gifts and interests flourish while academic pursuits grow steadily and confidently. On individual projects, children are encouraged to concentrate on their own projects; there are no comparisons made between students or between student works. Within student’s own abilities, each child is expected to do his or her best—whether the activity is math, painting, singing, or sweeping. Expecting each student’s best from every activity helps cultivate a strong sense of integrity and confidence with every endeavor taken on and accomplished.

Fostering a Collaborative Environment: Cooperative skills are developed throughout daily routines as well as through unique experiential projects that include gardening, folk dancing, original script writing, and play production for the annual school play. This balance of nurturing individualized expectations in a collaborative environment results in the development of a confident student body that works together in a caring and cohesive manner. This helps The Cottage School maintain a strong sense of community where creativity and a joy for learning are nurtured.

The Cottage School is a multicultural learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. To learn more about The Cottage School visit us at www.thecottageschools.net.

Discussion Based on the Film “Race to Nowhere”—A Free Parenting Workshop at The Cottage School

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“Hours of homework produce unbearable stress; stress produces cheating, cramming to pass tests and then forgetting everything; that false learning then means remediation when they get to college; and, on rare occasions, students kill themselves. In my 35 years of reporting for NPR and PBS, I have covered these issues more times than I care to remember…I promise you that this movie is telling the truth.”John Merrow, correspondent for PBS Newshour, writing for The Huffington Post

The Cottage School is pleased to offer a free workshop discussion on the groundbreaking educational film Race to Nowhere on Monday, January 29th from 9:30 to 11:00 AM.

Register Now!

This grassroots documentary challenges the current approach society takes to “prepare” children for success. With a hyper-focus on over-scheduling, over-testing, and over-performing in everything from academics to athletics, the film examines how our achievement-obsessed culture may not only be dangerous but counterproductive—robbing children of their childhood, love for learning, passion for creativity and intrinsic  motivation, leaving them ill-prepared for a healthy adulthood.

Named as one of “10 Education Documentaries You Don’t Want to Miss”, Race to Nowhere brings us together at The Cottage School to discuss the role and impact of education in an informed and insightful manner. Although viewing the film before the workshop is not necessary for the discussion, Race to Nowhere is available to rent or purchase on You TubeAmazon VideoiTunes and the Race to Nowhere website.

Register Now  for our Discussion Based on the Film “Race to Nowhere” on Monday, January 29th from 9:30 to 11:00 AM.

The Cottage School is a multicultural learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. To learn more about The Cottage School visit us at thecottageschools.net.

Baking (and Eating) Cake Together—A Monthly Birthday Tradition at The Cottage School

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A private school based in Gladstone, New Jersey, The Cottage School takes a collaborative approach when celebrating students’ birthdays. Students commemorate this milestone once a month by baking a carrot cake together and enjoying it once it comes out of the oven.

A wonderful example of “learning by doing,” baking brings into play so many different educational concepts in a fun and cooperative manner. The students are required to read the recipe, which is written in both English and Spanish to encourage literary fluency. Each student with a birthday that month gets to crack an egg while other students measure out all of the ingredients exactly, which requires a basic understanding of fractions. Finally, the students bring the ingredients together and watch them “transform” into a cake with the heat of the oven—a delightful way to bring basic chemistry to life. This experiential experience allows students to engage all their senses and use their minds in creative ways to solve the scrumptious problem of turning ten single ingredients into one delicious cake.

Once the cake is out of the oven, the students gather with their teachers and parents to sing the birthday song. The “birthday children” get to decide which language the song will be sung in, choosing from English, Spanish, French, Guarani, Portuguese, German and Mandarin. You will find our 15-year old recipe for Carrot Cake below, and we invite you to try it at home.

Carrot Cake
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups shredded carrots (about 5 medium)

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour rectangular pan, 13 x 9 x 2 inches. Mix sugar, oil and eggs until blended; beat 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients except carrots; beat 1 minute. Stir in carrots. Pour into pan.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

The Cottage School is a non-selective multicultural learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured.

The Importance of the Arts in Education: A Free Workshop at The Cottage School – November 30th, 2017 6:30pm

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Educational Workshops are an integral part of the culture at The Cottage School in Somerset County, New Jersey and are offered monthly to our parents and community at large.  Always free of charge, these inspirational and insightful classes explore current topics in education, parenting, and child development.

The Cottage School is pleased to announce that the November workshop – “The Importance of the Arts in Education” will be held on Thursday,  November 30th from 6:30pm-8:00pm. The workshop with be co-hosted by Liza Scher who holds a degree in Art History and a concentration in German Expressionism, and Laura Soulages who is the Founding Director of The Cottage School.  At the end of our discussion, attendees will be given the opportunity to paint their own holiday cards.

REGISTER NOW

A core belief at The Cottage School is that art, in all forms, be it visual arts, music, dance, imaginative play or drama, positively influences children in their physical, affective and cognitive development, their desire to learn and their love for school.

The process of creativity and expression is one that should not be oppressed. Creativity is an instinct and a need for all and it is imperative that we allow children the time to create. Art enables children to be critical, innovative thinkers, to problem solve, create, communicate, express and experiment. Art helps children to develop inventive and productive ways to think outside the box, and is an indispensable tool when it comes to developing physical, cognitive and social skills.

Founding Director of the Cottage School, Laura Soulages asks:

“Is it possible to educate in a different way? If education is considered a mere transfer of knowledge, the giving of information about mathematics, geography, history, language and so forth is enough. However, if the purpose of education is to develop children as whole human beings, the arts cannot be isolated. The arts not only enrich children’s lives as they are part of the culture, but they also help them to express themselves. Personal and unique expressions are shaped in paintings, in the sounds of music, in writing, in dance and in every possible type of human expression; and this expression is necessary for life.”

Yes, it is possible to educate in a different way and we are doing so at The Cottage School in Gladstone, New Jersey.  We feel that it is our job, as teachers, to nurture the creative minds of students. At The Cottage School, we integrate the Arts and Academics in all traditional subjects. We honor creativity in all subjects of learning, and, regardless of age, we provide daily free play time that help develop the imagination.

The Arts Education Partnership says that the artistic experiences in young children:

“Increase motivation, skill in symbol manipulation, and enhance skill in building social relationships. The arts develop self-regulation and develop expressive skills. Effective learning at all ages requires a balance between, on one hand, well-learned routines that provide efficiency and, on the other hand, opportunities for innovation that involve play and social interaction, which often allows new insights to emerge.”

Register Now  for “The Importance of the Arts in Education” to learn more.

The Cottage School is a non-selective multicultural learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. To learn more about The Cottage School visit us atthecottageschool.net.

Nurturing Individualized Learning Paths at The Cottage School

A private school based in Gladstone, New Jersey, The Cottage School develops a love of learning sustained by a spirit of discovery at a pace that accompanies each individual student. Students’ innate abilities and learning interests are nurtured in a non-competitive environment—free from tests, peer pressure, or academic competition. This helps The Cottage School maintain a strong sense of community where creativity and a joy for learning can thrive.

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Each student is expected to do his or her best, within a student’s own abilities,—whether the activity is rhythmic writing, math, painting, singing, weaving, or sweeping. This helps each student cultivate a strong sense of integrity and confidence with each endeavor. Children are encouraged to concentrate on their own projects; there are no comparisons made between students or their works. Individualizing expectations allows each child to grow in an educational environment that encourages progress with creative and attainable challenges.

Cooperative skills are developed throughout daily routines—such as circle time and morning song—as well as through unique experiential projects that include gardeningfolk dancing, original script writing, and rehearsal for the annual school play. This balance of nurturing individualized expectations in a collaborative environment results in the development of a confident student body that works together in a caring and cohesive manner.

Simplicity & Sweetness Abound at The Cottage School’s Halloween Parade and Harvest Festival

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At the end of every October, The Cottage School hosts its annual Halloween Parade and Harvest Festival for the school children and their families. All ages participate, including our littlest ones who attend our Mommy and Me program. Children are encouraged to wear noncommercial costumes—some of which are found in the school’s handmade “Theatrical Costume Collection” from the children’s annual school plays.

During the Halloween Parade, children walk a path with their teachers through the school yard and into the decorated playground. The children visit “stations,” where they say a nursery rhyme or sing a song and receive a healthy treat, such as an apple or bread. Each harvest station is directed by a parent dressed in costume:

  • The Farmer distributes organic apples from her harvest

  • The Miller shows the children how to mill corn into cornmeal

  • The Baker distributes corn bread

  • The Candlestick Maker hands out natural beeswax candles, which are handmade by the children at school the previous week

  • The Wizard performs magic tricks and gives each child homemade playdough

After the children visit each station, family members gather with their children and the teachers to enjoy some apple cider. 

Nursery Rhymes Recited and Songs Sung at the Harvest Festival

The Farmer
Ten little apples, up in a tree
five for you and five for me.
Let’s shake that apple tree just so
and all the apples fall below.

The Miller
Blow, wind, blow!
And go, mill go! 
That the miller can grind his corn
That the baker may take it,
And into bread make it,
And bring us a loaf in the morn,
And bring us a loaf in the morn.

The Baker
Pat-a cake, Pat-a-cake,
Baker’s man,
Bake me a cake, 
As fast as you can.
Pat it and prick it,
And mark it with B,
Put it in the oven,
For baby and me.

The Candlestick Maker
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.

The Wizard
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Raising Emotionally Intelligent and Resilient Children—A Free Educational Workshop at The Cottage School

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Educational Workshops are an integral part of the culture at The Cottage School and offered monthly to our parents and community at large. Always free-of-charge, these inspirational and insightful classes explore current topics in education, parenting, and child development.

The Cottage School is pleased to announce that the October workshop—“Raising Emotionally Intelligent and Resilient Children”—will be hosted by noted certified school psychologist  Dr. Jason Rodker . To accommodate different schedules, it is being offered twice this month—both in the evening on Thursday, October 26th from 6:30-8:00pm and in the morning on Monday, October 30th from 9:30 to 11am.

“Emotional intelligence” can be defined in many ways. One way to think about it is to consider qualities—such as self-awareness, empathy, emotional regulation, and interpersonal competence—that allow us to constructively manage our world of emotions so we remain resilient in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. According to Dr. Rodker, “helping children develop these qualities requires that we, as adults, help our children manage their own inner emotional worlds in compassionate and developmentally appropriate ways.” The upcoming workshops at The Cottage School will provide educators and parents with:

  • General guidelines for adopting a parental attitude that will help children naturally explore and befriend their inner worlds
  • Specific strategies to help children develop skills to manage difficult emotions

Register for “Raising Emotionally Intelligent and Resilient Children”today

SIGN UP for Thursday, October 26th 6:30-8:00pm

SIGN UP for Monday, October 30th 9:30- 11:00am

The Cottage School is a multicultural learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. To learn more about The Cottage School visit us at thecottageschools.net.

About Dr. Rodker: Dr. Jason Rodker earned his Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at Rutgers University and his Doctorate in Child-Clinical/School Psychology at Pace University. Throughout his training, he worked with adolescents/young adults who were dealing with anxiety and depression, adjustment to life transitions, gender and sexual identity issues, and relationship difficulties. During his internship and fellowship training at Youth Consultation Service, Dr. Rodker developed specialties in both child therapy and play therapy. He worked with children of all ages who presented with a variety of diagnoses including disruptive behaviors, mood dysregulation, adjustment difficulties, attachment issues, and trauma. As a certified school psychologist after training, Dr. Rodker worked on Child Study Teams in traditional and alternative school environments.

Today, Dr. Rodker is in private practice working with children, adolescents, and adults. All of the work in which Dr. Rodker engages is informed by a core appreciation for child and human development , as well as the key role that relationships play in the developmental process.

Folk Songs: A Morning Tradition at The Cottage School

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Regardless of age or grade, the children at The Cottage School start their day together. Teachers and children join up at circle time to greet each morning with a folk song, sung in either English or Spanish.

Folk songs provide a rich opportunity for language development and help set the foundation for bilingualism. Wrapped in melody and rhythm, songs use language in a way that is different from regular speech, enabling children to develop and expand language through the repetition of sounds, alliteration, and rhyme. This way, children intuitively learn new words, absorb meanings, and refine pronunciation. At The Cottage School, children are inspired to learn foreign languages, not only through folk songs, but through a wide variety of play-based experiences, including play-acting, art activities, traditional games, writing and drawing in books, and reading original prose, poetry and folktales out loud.

Folk songs are wonderful for building language; they help to instill confidence, generate multicultural awareness, and are best when shared. Parents are encouraged to sing our morning songs—like the one featured below—at home with their children.

Listen to  Good Morning the Earth :

Good Morning the Earth :
Good Morning the Earth and
Good morning the Sun
Good morning the rocks and the flowers, every one
Good Morning dear beasts and the birds in the trees
Good morning to you, and Good Morning to me!

Listen to Buen Día a la Tierra :

Buen Día a la Tierra :
Buen día a la tierra,
y buen día al sol,
buen día a las piedras, y las flores de todos,
buen día queridas bestias, y los pájaros y árboles,
buen día a tí, y buen día a mí.

The Cottage School is an alternative school focused on play-based learning. We integrate arts, and academics in all the traditional subjects. To learn more about our multicultural learning environment visit us at thecottageschools.net.

The Cottage School Playdough Recipe

At The Cottage School, we make our own playdough every week. Children of all ages love to play with it!

Not only is playdough calming, but it gives our students an opportunity for an open ended activity where they can create what they wish.

Playdough gives tactile pleasure and sensory integration: children can touch it, see it, smell it and even taste it sometimes! At The Cottage School, we believe the more senses children can use and the more involved they get in the activity, the greater the learning experience is. Children need to use all senses and need opportunities to create, playdough brings a perfect combination!

Here is a tried and true simple recipe that we’ve been using for years…

You’ll need:
2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
1 cup of water
1 cup maizena (cornstarch)
food coloring (optional)

Directions
Mix the flour, salt and maizena in a large mixing bowl
Add oil and food coloring to the water then into the dry ingredients
Mix continuously adding the liquid
Knead some and let your child do the rest!

*If it remains a little sticky then add a touch more flour until just right (not too sticky and not too dry). You can keep it in the refrigerator for a week; add a little more flour each time you take it out to use.

*For a wonderful natural dye, try boiling beets and using the leftover water in this recipe.

To learn more about The Cottage School visit  www.thecottageschool.net .

The Cottage School Receives Grant from the Garden Club of Somerset Hills for $500

The Cottage School is pleased to announce it has received a $500 grant from the Garden Club of Somerset Hills Community Grant Program.  These funds will help expand The Cottage School Garden Program.

Students are engaged in caring for the garden through weeding, watering, and harvesting crops, and receive monthly gardening lessons on such topics as composting, seed saving, crop rotation, bee friendly plantings, and other aspects of organic gardening. a drying rack for drying and saving seeds and herbs and a drop irrigation system to maintain the garden during the summer months.

Founding Director of the Cottage School, Laura Soulages explains, “The children benefit immensely from The Cottage School Gardening Program, as it provides an outlet to foster inquiry about the love for the natural world. The program integrates health and wellness education by encouraging students to eat a healthy and balanced diet that incorporates fresh, organically grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. Extra plants are often divided and made available to the students to bring home, encouraging a dialogue about health and wellness between parents and children at home. Children are also taught the beneficial health aspects of good bacteria from the soil and the medicinal used of herbs, and the gardening program has helped the students experience a sense of community as they garden with their classmates.”

The Garden Club of Somerset Hills awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process. They provide funding for outstanding projects located in Somerset, Morris, Hunterdon and Essex Counties.  They continue to be committed to helping preserve and protect natural resources, furthering horticulture projects, andencouraging an awareness and appreciation of the natural environment around us. 

Mondays on Education – Simplicity Parenting (Recap)

Last week, as part of our Mondays on Education workshop series,  a group of The Cottage School parents and community members gathered to discuss the book Simplicity Parenting by renowned family counselor, Kim John Payne.

The ideas proposed in the book align well with the mission and foundation of The Cottage School and we recommend reading it if you have the opportunity.

Some quotes from the book that  resonated with the group were:

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“A smaller, more manageable quantity of toys invites deeper play and engagement. An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm. ” –  Kim John Payne

“The “messiness” of free play, with its many changes and possibilities, builds an inner flexibility. ” –  Kim John Payne

“Children’s play flourished when we “let it” rather than “make it”happen.” –  Kim John Payne

Our next workshop in the Mondays on Education Series will focus on the benefits of a bilingualism.

To learn more about The Cottage School visit  www.thecottageschools.net

The Cottage School Alumni Profile and Interview – Emily Vasconez

We are so proud that the children who attend The Cottage School go on to become socially confident students and strong leaders amongst their peers.  We’re also thrilled when we hear that they look back fondly on their time here at The Cottage School. 

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Emily Vasconez was enrolled at The Cottage School since she was 2 1/2 years old, so she was able to take advantage of all that we offer here – beginning with the playgroup, transitioning to the preschool and finally through the elementary school.

Emily completed 6th grade at The Cottage School, transferred to a public school in 7th grade, and was able to easily adjust to a different system of education. Not only is she thriving academically, testing above her grade level in reading, she is also very helpful with her classmates and has begun tutoring younger students. She comes back to visit The Cottage School often and during her last visit,  we asked her to tell us a bit about her experiences transitioning to a public school setting after leaving The Cottage School.

During this impromptu interview, Emily talks here about her experience tutoring other students, how she easily made friends when she changed schools, her experience transitioning to a test taking education model and how she is passionate about her studies, especially math!  She also discusses how The Cottage School helped to foster her creativity and how it is apparent in her current school work. 

As a bilingual student, whose home language is Spanish, she was able to speak up for other students who were not fluent in English when they couldn’t understand why they were being teased. 

For parents that have questions about how the children develop in a small alternative school setting and transition later on, this is a great way to hear first hand from a Cottage School student!

We asked her to write a bit about her experiences here at The Cottage School and she gave us permission to share here.

Here’s what she had to say:

“The Cottage School is wonderful and I had an amazing learning experience there. At The Cottage School, you experience this whole other dimension of creativity that no other schools have. I ,for one, have experienced this and I have done things that I thought were impossible to do. With the help of amazing teachers and the bolster they gave me and the wonderful creativity of the school, I was able to write a play.  Then, with the help of my classmates and teachers, we made the play come to life.

I also learned during the years that I was at the school, that creativity has no limit and if you have the proper tools and imagination, you can create anything. During these years, I watched how our classmates helped each other out and how we cared for one another.

This school has taught me to never let anything stop me from being creative and to care for others and to have a fun learning experience.

Thank you, The Cottage School, for letting me be in a amazing place of creativity and fun learning.  This is a school that I will never forget being in and experiencing the fun I had every day.” – Emily Vasconez , 13yrs old

You can listen to the whole interview on the left.

The End of the Year School Play – The Cottage School Version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

In learning how to read, children are often taught that “reading” is a skill that one develops to decode words, but it is not always offered related to context. One of the fundamentals of The Cottage School is to educate the children to become “life-long readers,” with an appreciation for the literature that they are being read or reading by themselves. In play acting, children not only develop literary skills and a love for literature, but they also develop confidence in expressing themselves through the creative process.

With this in mind, The children have been hard at work preparing for our annual school play.  Based on our curriculum for this school year (Animals and Plants), the elementary students wrote The Cottage School version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that we will perform on June 2 at 9:45 am. 

Our elementary school students initiate their research at the beginning of the school year.  Then, they start the creative writing process.  They learn the editing process and how to revise.  The group works together during many classes to create a cohesive story that includes all members of the school through dialogue, singing, and dancing.   All students take part in the production; they are involved in the entire process – from painting scenery and helping with costumes to acting without the script.

The end of the school year play nurtures creativity linked to what they are studying. In addition, the experience of being part of a story, teaches children to appreciate literature by creating an environment in which the literature makes sense to them. By play acting the story, they “re-create it”; they comprehend it, and thereby, unite the learning experience.

Check out some photos below of the children creating the scenery for this year’s play. 

To learn more about The Cottage School visit www.thecottageschool.net

Photography by Anne Katherine Photography

The Cottage School 2017 Folk Dancing Performance

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This week,  we hosted our 13th annual Folk Dancing Performance.   Our long-standing folk dancing program positively influences student development and the desire to learn, and nurture their love for the school and sense of community. Students dance weekly, building stamina and learning new dances as the year progresses. Every April, the students in our Young Kindergarten and Elementary Programs are ready to perform for thirty minutes non-stop; parents and grand-parents join to dance afterwards. The performance makes them feel capable, confident, accomplished and most importantly, very happy. This is an experience that they will always remember.

We believe that physical arts are an essential aspect of education for the development of the whole child and for a healthy society. By incorporating folk dances in our programs, the students not only exercise, improve rhythm, coordination and balance, but they are also learning about traditional music and dances from around the world.

This year, students in our Young K, Kindergarten and Elementary Programs performed the following International Folk Dances.

  • Kadril – Russia
  • Deer – France
  • Camels – Israel
  • 7 Jumps – United States of America
  • Hey Yanana – North American Indians
  • Horses – Russia
  • Koryak – North Russia
  • Bamboo – International

They danced the following with parents and grandparents:

  • Irish Jig Medley
  • Nafarroa – Spain/Basque
  • Sri ram Jai ram – India

You can watch the performance below.

Multiage Classrooms at The Cottage School

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A wonderful and unique reality at The Cottage School is the opportunity for students to interact with children of a variety of ages. Though the children are separated into groups and explore different subjects independently, the beginning of the day always starts with everyone together in Morning Circle, lunch is eaten together and multiple opportunities for the children to interact with older and younger children are presented throughout the day.

We asked Toni Welsh, a Neuropsychologist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, to compile some research on Multiage Classrooms.  Toni has experience working therapeutically with children in various clinical settings and schools. She is also the mother of two children who attend The Cottage School.

The Benefits of Multiage Classrooms – Toni Welsh

At The Cottage School , rather than being confined to a classroom with peers whose ages are only a few months apart, children are able to gain something from other children who may be a few months or a few years different in age. For example, it is not uncommon for a Kindergartener to be assisting a preschooler with putting on his shoes or for a child in elementary school to be organizing a game on the playground for the preschoolers and Kindergarteners.

Some people may fear that if an older child must assist a younger child, this will hold back the progress of the older child. The opposite, however, is true. Teaching helps a child more deeply understand a concept. She has to analyze and rearrange her own store of knowledge before she can pass it along to another person. Of course this process also builds empathy and nurturance, as well as confidence and feelings of competence, which are other wonderful effects of such an interaction.

The teachers are not excluded from this mixed age socialization either! They always sit amongst the children at their lunch tables and during circle time.  Through this interaction, students of varying ages and teachers exchange shared experiences that allow them to form stronger bonds together, which leads to secure attachment in their relationships. Howes and Ritchie (1999) found that teacher-student relationships predicted children’s social competence and children with secure teacher-student relationships played in more complex ways with their peers

Segregation of age in schools is a relatively recent phenomenon that runs counter to the pattern of schooling and raising children that existed prior to that time. Children and all young primates have historically used the context of mixed-age play to move from dependence on their mother to independence in adulthood. Through this play, the young learn social roles and nurturing skills leading to more harmony among members compared to same-age groups. Rhoades (1966) found that children in a nongraded elementary school chose friends from two years older to two years younger than themselves. Other research on multiage classrooms demonstrated that these students outperformed their peers, made more progress in self-concept, and were more altruistic and sociable than those in age-segregated classrooms (Bizman, 1978; Goldman, 1981; Hammack, 1974; Milburn, 1981). Socially, prosocial behavior has been connected with mixed-age classrooms. Fewer children typically experience social isolation and aggressive and negative behaviors are significantly reduced (McClellan and Kinsey, 1997).

Pepperdine professor and psychotherapist, Lou Cozolino, believes that incorporating an understanding of attachment theory and social neuroscience into our educational system is key. He proposed that relationships are imperative in improving academic performance and he discussed his idea of a “tribal classroom”. He stated that “a tribal classroom simulates an environment of collaboration, mutual support, and secure attachment.” In this type of environment, children at one end of the skill spectrum are able to learn from those at the other end. This is able to occur when ages are mixed. Everyone is able to feel as if they contribute and belong. Just like traditional tribes, both students and teachers sit in circles and each individual brings something to the table. Education is a part of life and occurs through the context of daily activity. A natural family-like environment is created, which is what the children, families, and teachers experience daily at The Cottage School. Ultimately, the brain is able to be stimulated in ways that enhance learning (Howes, 2014).

The more a classroom parallels the dynamics of natural social systems, the more that attachment relationships and the social structure of the group will optimize learning via neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new connections. The more the emotional climate of the classroom matches the characteristics of tribal life, the better students and teachers perform (Cozolino 2014).

To learn more about The Cottage School,  visit www.thecottageschools.net

References

Bizman, A., Yinon, Y., Mivitzari, E., & Shavit, R. (1978). Effects of the age structure of the kindergarten on altruistic behavior. Journal of School Psychology, 16, 154-160.

Cozolino, L. (2014). Attachment-based teaching: Creating a tribal classroom. New York: W. W.

Norton & Company.

Goldman, A. (1981). Social participation of preschool children in same versus mixed-age groups. Child Development, 52, 644-650.

Hammack, B.G. (1975). Self-concept: Evaluation of preschool children in single and multi-age  classroom settings. Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 6572-6573.

Howes, R. (September 2014). The tribal classroom: Applying attachment theory in schools. An interview with Lou Cozolino, Psychology Networker. Retrieved on March 25, 2017 from https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/86/point-of-view.

Howes, C., & Ritchie, S. (1999). Attachment organizations in children with difficult life circumstances. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 251–268. doi:10.1017/S0954579499002047.

McClellan, D. E. & Kinsey, S. (April 1997). Children’s social behavior in relationship to participation in mixed-age or same-age classrooms. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Washington, DC.

Milburn, D. (1981). A study of multi-age or family-grouped classrooms. Phi Delta Kappan, 62,513-514.

Rhoades, W.M. (1966). Erasing grade lines. The Elementary School Journal, 67, 140-145.

Rhythmic Writing at The Cottage School

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One of our unique teaching tools here at The Cottage School in Gladstone, New Jersey is Rhythmic Writing.  Developed in Argentina by Dorothy Ling, a respected expert on music and education, Rhythmic Writing uses music and form drawing to develop handwriting, hand-eye coordination, concentration, a sense of space, directionality, and focus. 

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Following the rhythm of music, the children start by drawing patterns with straight or curved lines which, as the year goes on, become more complex. Through Rhythmic Writing, children experience writing with their bodies, not just with their intellect, understanding how individual parts of their scribble relate to the whole.  This activity puts order to their whole being, transforming scribbles into forms.

After a year or two of working on the blackboard, children start doing Rhythmic Writing on the blank pages in their books which eventually helps learning cursive handwriting to come naturally.

To learn more about The Cottage School visit  www.thecottageschools.net