Children benefit from Wimpfheimer as a laboratory nursery school. The basic components of quality early childhood education are the cornerstones of Wimpfheimer Nursery School: a child-centered environment; a developmentally appropriate curriculum; low adult/child ratios; and an educated, experienced teaching staff.
Architecturally designed as a nursery school, the physical structure and furnishings support child-centered exploration and learning. Self-help skills and independence are fostered as children work/play in an environment built to fit their needs. Success in their environment in turn promotes positive self-esteem. A developmentally appropriate curriculum allows for assessing and challenging each child at their own level of development. By attracting student teachers from respected early childhood education programs, the children benefit from a constant influx of new ideas supported by low adult/child ratios. In general, we strive for an adult/child ratio of 1:2 in our youngest program, 1:4 in our mixed-age preschool, and 1:6 in our kindergarten class. Teachers employed by the nursery school have their Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, and Assistant Teachers have their Associate’s or Bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education or related fields.
The Wimpfheimer Nursery School is also part of the wider Vassar community. The nursery school is viewed as an important “primary source” to the Vassar students and faculty, where neither students nor faculty need merely to read about children. Instead, they may enter the child’s world by entering the school. Using our contemporary laboratory facilities, students and faculty may bring questions about child development, educational curriculum, children’s literature, or children in our modern society. They may seek their answers in careful observation, personal interactions, structured interviews or archival records. In an active laboratory school, it is sometimes difficult to figure out who is asking more questions - the students, the teaching staff, the faculty, the parents or the children. And it is also difficult to figure out who is providing more answers. With each question asked, learning may occur - and the acquired knowledge is put to good use to improve the foundation for optimizing each child’s development.
We firmly believe that children surrounded by learners thrive as learners. Our interwoven staff of teachers, student teachers, and faculty provides an ongoing exchange of ideas and educational practices based on the most contemporary theory and research in early childhood education and developmental psychology. Yet a model school also strives to foster a relationship between the child’s school and home. This begins with daily communication between the teachers and the parents. Classroom notebooks and newsletters are some of the vehicles we use to support communication. In addition, parents receive their own unique benefits from being part of a laboratory nursery school community. The teachers, directors, and other faculty members serve as a vibrant resource of information about early child development and parenting. Parent-teacher conferences, parent workshop series and a parent library invite parents to enter the learning exchange.