NCCC provides individualized learning in a multi-age classroom. Preschoolers come to school with varied levels of knowledge and ability. The director and other staff assess the children when they arrive, and pick up where they are, rather than starting from the very beginning and teaching all the children the same thing at the same time. They speak to the children in a respectful manner and help them to learn to be more independent, and the school uses many classic Montessori materials and lessons in the curriculum.
NCCC teachers emphasize critical thinking skills by frequently asking questions which aren’t simple or rote, but require careful thought. Mr.Todd, the founding director, developed the idea of “challenges” from a practice of an important mentor. Students accept or politely decline challenges for reading numbers (sometimes up into the trillions and quadrillions), learning and remembering two and three dimensional shapes, literacy basics, introducing oneself to another child, rolling up a work rug, holding a tray without spilling, geography facts, and more. This method works so well in the classroom, because it allows the child the opportunity to accept the challenge when he or she has reached the appropriate stage of development, and because watching more advanced children succeed with challenges provides valuable models for the ones who have not yet mastered a skill.
The children at NCCC are able to take advantage of the beautiful environment and stimulating academic resources of the New College campus. On any given day, they may be playing by the bayfront, planting trees on Arbor Day with members of the Physical Plant staff, reading books at the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, or learning about sea life at the Pritzker Marine Center.
NCCC has three classrooms,
the Innovators (1-2yo),
the Explorers (2-3yo), and
the Scientists (3-5yo).
Many factors govern where children are placed and when they move from the Explorers to the Scientist classroom, including age, maturity, classroom dynamics, and space availability. Because we share our spaces and mix our classrooms so frequently, we maintain as a minimum ratio school-wide the required teacher-child ratio for one-year-olds, which is one adult to six children (1:6).
The typical classroom management model is called “one up, one down,” which involves two teachers for a single classroom: at any given time, one teacher is
“down,” giving lessons to individual children or small groups, and one teacher is “up,” monitoring the classroom and offering help to children who are working independently. This division ensures that the teacher who is giving lessons is not disturbed and is able to devote his or her full attention to the children they are working with. We have an extra teacher or more in the classroom, which gives teachers more opportunities to give lessons during work time.