About SYC . . .

School for Young Children Welcome to the website of the School for Young Children in Columbus, Ohio. Our program was founded in 1969 as a part-time preschool program.  Our philosophy has remained consistent through the years; that children be allowed to develop at their own pace in an atmosphere of free play enriched with a variety of creative materials and the support of teachers who respect them as individuals.

As a community outreach program of the First Unitarian Universalist Church, we are a welcoming school--we do not discriminate upon the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or cultural background of parents or children.

SYC’s Social/Emotional Umbrella

Posted on September 14, 2017 in category Director's Blog

SYC's Social/Emotional Umbrella

When we give tours and talk to people about SYC, it’s always a bit hard to describe who we are and what we do. We mostly play so we call ourselves “play-based” but that has come to mean so many different things: from all play all day with no structured parts of the day, to a brief time when kids are allowed to “play” in certain centers with certain materials in a certain way until a bell rings. It’s hard to describe exactly what SYC is – maybe you’ve found that to be true, too. And while the core of who we are has remained the same, sometimes we’ve found it helpful to reexamine how we define ourselves in relation to other programs out there.

Each year, usually in the spring, our staff engages in professional development that might involve attending a workshop or conference, visiting one or more schools, or meeting with other early childhood professionals to discuss what we do and why. These experiences offer our staff more than just the few hours spent observing and listening. They bring on conversations among our staff that challenge and question what we do and why we do it.

We’d like to tell you about three of these recent visits, the conversations they sparked and what we’ve learned about ourselves in the process.

A few years ago, our staff travelled to Cincinnati to tour and meet with the staff of two project-based schools where kids engage in months-long investigations of a particular topic. It’s not what we do, but it was interesting to see. During the course of the conversations with the other teachers, we tried explaining how what we do is different. We talked about acknowledging all feelings, about setting and listening to limits, about learning to get along in a group. At one point, one of the Cincinnati teachers said, “Oh, I see. Social and emotional development is your umbrella – everything you do is seen through the lense of social and emotional development.” Yes! That’s who we are and what we do, though it had been a while since we put it in those words. Having that framework, though, has helped us see ourselves in relation to other programs as well as to make sure we’re maintaining the focus within our own program.

Last year, we visited a preschool in Baltimore whose focus is totally on child-led play. They believe that children need a place and time where there are few if any limits to what they can do. Their program has no structured parts of the day: no small groups, no rug time or story time, no sit-down-snack. When seen through a lens of child-led play – their umbrella – this totally makes sense – they don’t want to have anything impact the time that’s set aside for play. In the weeks and months following the visit, our staff has reaffirmed our belief in play as well, and our desire to to save aside as much time as possible for it. However, through the lense of social and emotional development, we also see value in the small communities formed during small groups, in the shared experiences of story time or rug time. This visit encouraged us to examine if there are ways that we could devote more of our day to play without sacrificing the social and emotional support provided by the few structured parts of our day.

Finally, this summer the two of us visited Roseville Community Preschool in Sacramento, California. Roseville was the home of Bev Bos, a mentor to several generations of SYC teachers. Bev believed that, given the freedom to explore and play, children will learn exactly what they are ready to learn, they don’t need adults pushing them onto the next task. Our visit reconfirmed our belief in the individuality of each child and our trust in their learning process. We were reminded of the importance of an engaging and inviting environment, and again of protecting the time for play while maintaining our umbrella of social and emotional development.

Upon returning home from our most recent trip and as we began to prepare our office for the school year, we stumbled upon some of the historical SYC documents. One written by Julia Sonner Sheppard called “S.Y.C–School for Maturity” in her article from 1976 she describes SYC as such :

“Janet Stocker and Lee Row, co-founders of the preschool, begin with the premise that preschool is for individual emotional and social development rather than for academics or ‘school situation’ training. A child who has his own feelings sorted out, his own sense of identity, his own self-control and his own self-direction can go on to academics with the fewest stumbling blocks. It is much more difficult for a child to be faced with academics while he is still struggling with basic emotional and social development. Try teaching the alphabet, for example, to a child who is on the verge of tears because his mother has abandoned him to unfamiliar teachers and strange surroundings.”

“Verbalizing his own needs and feelings and listening to the needs and reactions of others demonstrate cause and effect to the child. The opportunity to make choices also teaches him the results of his decisions. Recognizing the consequences for his actions is of the the steps in a child’s learning responsibility.”

The culmination of these experiences has us looking carefully at what we are doing, making sure that we’re making the best use of the little time we have together in a way that aligns with our philosophy. As we continue to learn and grow, some classes may tweak their schedules or their structured parts of the day in order to maximize the time set aside for play, while keeping our social/emotional umbrella in mind. As a staff, we’ll be talking with each other about what we’re doing and how it works, we’ll be sharing ideas and support. We’ll keep you informed and welcome feedback as we go. Ask questions, make suggestions. This is your community, too.

 

– Susan Roscigno and Amy Rudawsky, SYC Co-Directors

Reigniting the fire and carrying the torch…

Posted on July 30, 2017 in category Director's Blog

Reigniting the fire and carrying the torch...

Recently Susan and I traveled to Sacramento, California for a unique opportunity to learn from some lifelong advocates of play.  Sitting right on the Placer County fairgrounds is the Roseville Community Preschool (RCP), made known by passionate play advocate Bev Bos in the 1960s.

Many years ago our own SYC mentors visited RCP for a very similar conference held by Bev and her son-in-law, Michael Leeman, the current director.  Over the years SYC staff have viewed pictures and heard stories of their experience at the conference.  SYC leaders formed lasting personal and professional relationships with both Bev and Michael, and even invited them to SYC one year to co-host an event advocating for play in our community.  Sadly, Bev died in Feb 2016, before many of our current staff ever had a chance to meet her.

When Susan and I saw that this year they would hold a new conference we jumped at the chance to immerse ourselves in learning and playing with other like-minded professionals. We attended workshops on Peter Gray’s work on the value of play, and on the value of loose parts: materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways, materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.  We also heard about the importance of creating a sense of belonging for all the children in your program, presented by Dan Hodgins.

We were given several opportunities to tour the preschool followed by an open discussion with the Roseville Preschool staff.  It’s hard to put into words of the experience of entering the classroom.  It was the feeling of joy, freedom, and creativity, and of being immersed in nature throughout the entire indoor and outdoor space.  It was a place I wanted to stay in, to play in.

During the interactive conference we connected with other professionals from all over the country, sharing and learning from others who also passionately believe that play-based learning is what’s best for kids.  Surrounding ourselves by this unique community has reignited our fire to carry the torch that Bev lit so many years ago, and that Jan Waters and Stephanie Rottmayer passed on to us. We can’t wait to share what we’ve seen with the rest of the SYC staff when we come back in the fall.

We’ve returned from California refreshed and even more confident that the work we do at SYC is the right work.  We insist on creating a safe space for all kids, with opportunities for movement, creativity, and freedom.  A place where kids want to stay and play.

We look forward to playing in September.

…Amy Rudawsky, Co-Director

Amy with Michael Leeman, Director of Roseville Community Preschool

Amy and Susan in front of Roseville Community Preschool

A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

Posted on May 18, 2017 in category Director's Blog

You come to school every few days and see what’s happening in the classrooms:  the loving attention of our teachers, the excitement of playing with peers, the conflict that comes from differing opinions and the resolution that often comes after, the freedom to create.  You see the play, the safe place to express all emotions, the chance to take risks – whether social, emotional, cognitive or physical.

But you might not see everything that goes on behind the scenes to make all this happen.  As we wrap up the year, we thought you might like to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes:

  • A group of teachers worked together to create a new structure to the fall SYC Parent Orientation with more focus on building community within classes.
  • Based on the responses to the fall orientation, we designed and hosted a New Family Orientation in April to give families who are just joining the community a chance to learn about SYC’s philosophy, practices and the day-to-day details of coming to school here.
  • We had our first Family Play Date last September which was a huge hit – we hope to replicate it this fall (and would welcome your help!)
  • 38 new families joined us this year, with 30 more new families on track to join us this fall.
  • Over $12,000 in scholarship money was raised through your generosity both at the Scholarship Auction and through other donations and was allocated to 14 families
  • We received a very generous donation from former SYC teacher, Gene Ackerman, which will go to more scholarships in the coming years.
  • Teachers travelled to Baltimore, MD to see how one school supports child-led learning.
  • Teachers engaged in an in-depth study of several different child development philosophies and how they related to SYC, as well as workshops supporting racial and gender diversity and children with special needs and their families.
  • Teachers renewed their certification in communicable disease prevention and ODJFS rules training.
  • Several teachers have worked to prepare for our NAEYC renewal visit sometime next year, including vast documentation of the learning that happens every day in our classrooms.
  • We learned and adapted to the new child care licensing rules adopted by ODJFS in December.
  • We were visited by educators from Toledo who are starting a program for children who are kicked out of other preschools and wanted to see how we work with social and emotional development, an educator from Chicago who had read It’s OK Not to Share and wanted to see us in action, a team from Nationwide Children’s Hospital who support children and preschool programs who are struggling, and a person from Marysville who wants to start her own nature-based preschool.
  • We’ve had observations from a number of OSU students as well as long-term internships from Columbus State, CAHS, and Upper Arlington students.
  • Two retired SYC teachers have volunteered regularly while a few more have made occasional visits to help out.
  • We’ve used: 600+ bandaids, three gallons of glue, 1,800 feathers, three giant rolls of paper, and 35 rolls of masking tape.
  • We’ve had 9 fire drills and 3 tornado drills (sometimes called emergency practices), one visit by Dream Shop, three visits by the firefighters, and many visits by parents and caregivers sharing their skills/interests with us.
  • We’ve hosted four parent education nights, eight parent coffees and one kindergarten info night.
  • Teachers have had countless emails and conversations with parents, consultations with outside experts, referrals, articles/books read, smiles and hugs given/received.

Wow.  Sounds like a lot when you put it all down on paper!  And it is a lot in addition to all the hard work that happens in the classrooms each day, but it is all lovingly and willingly done to keep the SYC program and philosophies alive and well.  If you’d like to help keep us going, please be sure to keep an eye out for the volunteer sign-ups that will come in the fall.  We’d love to have your help!

 

…Susan Roscigno, Co-Director

 

Risk Taking for Preschoolers

Posted on February 21, 2017 in category Director's Blog

Risk Taking for Preschoolers

What do we know about risk taking for preschoolers?

This is what we know…risk taking and risk assessment is a vital role in a person’s growth and development in life.  

For an adult, it might look like taking on a physical challenge of stepping up to a barbell to try and lift a heavier weight, asking someone out on a date, giving a speech to a large crowd, or sharing a viewpoint that may not be popular.

For a preschooler, it may look like climbing a tree. The child senses what it feels like to hold on to a branch with their hands as they feel around to place their foot and decipher which branch is sturdy enough to support their body.  Putting hands into a sensory table to experience an unknown sensation and determine if that’s a feeling they like or dislike, asking a classmate to sit next to them at lunch, offering an idea at a circle time in front of the large group, attempting to write one’s name, or using a saw at the workbench are other ways a preschooler may experience risk taking.  

More recently, our society has become more risk averse. Parents, teachers, caregivers fear children will be hurt or uncomfortable.  Society has even labeled some of us as “helicopter parents”.  By being risk averse, we miss that “sweet spot of where the magic happens.”  We miss the opportunity for growth and we deprive kids of risk assessment.  This risk assessment helps them match their skills with the demands of the environment.  If children do not have the practice of risk assessing, they will look to others to decide what’s safe (peers and adults).  Children need to become competent in their skills with the opportunity to take age appropriate risks. Taking a risk or a chance means that they might make a mistake.  The more opportunities for risk and mistakes gives children confidence about taking chances and helps them rebound and learn flexibility when things don’t work out exactly the first time. Hazards are different from risks and require a watchful eye and feedback from caregivers. Hazards are invisible risks that children can’t see like a broken tricycle or pieces of glass shards on a playground. It’s our job as adults to assess for hazards.  

As parents, educators, and society how can we support our preschoolers in taking risks?  We can stop saying “be careful”.  “Be careful” is not a useful saying as it gives no information. Giving specific feedback is more useful.  We can provide kids with opportunities in a safe space to explore risks by looking for hazards and staying close by.  By remaining calm, we can show the kids that we trust their ability to problem solve and risk assess.  If children succeed, they gain the confidence in mastery of their task. If they make a mistake, they gain information about what didn’t work and they gain the ability to try it again a different way.  
Now is the time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  It will led us to growth: personal, societal, and family.

…Amy Rudawsky, Co-Director