Connected Community: Reflections on Week One of Home CNS

Cady and Kelly
March 20th, 2020
Congratulations! We made it through our first week of virtual CNS and all the life changes of these very unprecedented times. Like the beginning of school, you and your children transition beautifully. Through ups and downs, we all found our way.

As our faculty reflected on this first week, we spent so much time feeling enormous gratitude for you, for your children, and for all that we have together. 
In this uncertain time, the CNS community, most especially the children, have provided us with great comfort, great perspective, and great reassurance. Just as we could count on the sun to shine and signs of spring to emerge this week, we knew in each ZOOM, we could rely on children to share joy, wonder, and light as well. We delighted in the joy that they found in connecting in this way. 

When we spend time in their company, we feel true hope and we know the future is in great hands. We know whatever lies ahead in these next days or weeks that they will show us how to grow, to be flexible, to get back up, to innovate, to reimagine, to carry on and most importantly, to care. In this short (and long) week, we have learned so much from them.
To be their teachers in this unprecedented time, we quickly mastered new technology, communication tools, and platforms while creating plans that would best maintain and preserve the pedagogy that we value. We were challenged to be true to our mission and our goals even if it was not how we expected or imagined it to be.

In this process, we have been reminded that as children raised in an "Information Age," they have access to some rich resources and content. At the end of this, some children will have been taught to draw with Mo Willems, heard famous authors or actors read their favorite books, exercised with some of Boston’s top fitness instructors, mastered letters (or even learned to read) under the guidance of responsive apps, been offered math stories through Bedtime Math, heard music by award-winning musicians, taken virtual museum field trips around the globe and had access to countless recipes, experiments, projects, and studies all thanks to the world wide web. 
With the research on learning and unschooling to guide us, we have also been reminded of the important role of parents and caregivers who support the best every day learning

by reading in a lap, cooking alongside a child, taking a hike in the woods, helping a sibling, 
reading aletter together and letting children engage in self-directed play (even when messy). We know with great certainty that children could enjoy these next weeks living in the moment, and successfully return to more structured learning when schools, museums, parks, classes, and other destinations inevitably open again. Parents can and should remain open to doing as much or as little as feels right. Children have time and long lives of learning ahead. 

In light of this, it has reinforced, something that we often explain on tours at CNS, that great learning still needs no technology, and still is built on relationships, experiences, and play. In fact, the quality of this generation’s education will not be the acquisition of information or a collection of skills; instead, quality education will be defined by what children are able to do with all the information out there. A valuable education will ensure that they don’t just replicate, recite, or repeat. A valuable education will show them how to pursue an interest/good question, work collaboratively, think critically, apply their understanding, take perspectives, problem-solve creatively and communicate effectively about the information they amass. To deliver this quality of education requires a thoughtful teacher who observes and listens to children as they go through this learning process. These thoughtful teachers can respond to each group of individuals with prompts, personalization, and possibilities that allow them to build on what they know and approach the world with "habits of mind" to extend their playful learning. 

CNS has been recognized as that kind of top quality education because thoughtful teachers deliver this kind of learning. And, as every major educational scholar has told us this kind of play is what sets us apart. As we moved to virtual CNS, we wanted to be true to this approach. Rather than just lists and links (though those have been useful), we wanted to provide that same observant, responsive, interactive, emergent and collaborative curriculum that we celebrate. In the face of novel challenges, this kind of connected purposeful authentic learning is more important than ever. 

We hope as we continue to roll out digital CNS that we are true to this mission. We begin with relationships through zoom and personal notes then connect them to individual and group opportunities to extend playful learning at home. And, wow, so far we see that children did not skip a beat. They continued connecting with friends, they continued extending studies and they followed new prompts. In the documentation from home, they shared inventions, experiments, creations, and collaborations. It was amazing to see the CNS approach transfer into their play and learning at home.

Recently, one of our favorite early childhood educators Teacher Tom wrote in his article “Don’t Worry About Your Preschooler.”
"Young children were built for this. Young children are the masters of learning from whatever life throws at them. Indeed, from the perspective of a typical preschooler, getting to stay home with the family might be the best thing that's ever happened. Oh sure, right now it might be hard. Right now the kids might be going a bit bonkers, but give it another week or so. Give your family a chance to find a rhythm." 
We couldn't agree more. This way of being, teaching and learning are what humans are built for and what our world often demands.  

Furthermore, we think it is important to point out that not only are children built for this, but they are also lucky enough to have adults who support this constructivist learning. Their innate ability to empathize, to regulate, to connect, to problem solve, to innovate and to make things better is encouraged by the adults around them. As their first teachers, you have fostered that. As their CNS teachers, our mission is to continue to nurture this human capacity so that children can continue to flourish. 

Just as CNS aims to provide unique learning at school, in the CNS virtual classroom we will do our best to uniquely maintain our community, personalization, and responsiveness. We will keep our commitment to dialogue, discovery, and documentation. In the end, we imagine your children will be stronger, smarter and more successful than any generation before them. And, we will be the fortunate recipients of their wisdom and compassion. 

We thank you and the children for giving us this opportunity to appreciate what is possible and deliver on what is promised in new ways. We are dedicated to bringing you CNS through all of this. It was a great week and it will keep getting better. 
Enjoy the warm weekend ahead. Follow your children in wonder and play. We promise it will be the best learning that you ever do and it will bring you great joy!
With gratitude and care,  
Cady and Kelly

A few more notes of thanks. There are never enough. What would you add? There is so much we are grateful

 for in our community. 
  • Thank you to the board and families that have long positioned CNS with a technology. A computer for each teacher, Kaymbu, websites...that made this transition possible. We know most preschool teachers do not have laptops. 
  • Thank you for the partnership with parents for logging-in and putting their own Zoom meetings aside. 
  • Thank you to the brilliant, resilient, flexible and creative teachers.
  • Thank you to our investment in professional development so that we could pivot to new platforms.
  • Thank you for the home-school extensions that we have developed over time so that families were ready to support this kind of hands-on learning. 
  • Thank you for the documentation and the shared photos. 
  • Thank you for the recommendations and resources.
  • Thank you for the reminder that the best learning is play and time outdoors.
When you need ideas, more resources are on CNS Playful Learning Extensions and we will continue to send them next week.