The Golden Bridges' early childhood program includes preschool classes of 6-15 students each day (depending on the program) and two kindergarten classes with a maximum of 16 students in each class.
The first seven years of life are a time of growing into and taking hold of the body, and we nurture this process through warm-hearted relationships, familiar and comforting rhythms, song, music and movement, time outdoors and social interactions with strong and clear boundaries. Children at this age learn best through direct experience and imitation of the intentional adults around them. We provide an orderly rhythm of directed activities that mirror everyday life inside and outside. Ample free play fosters the imagination, and cultivates healthy social development that is child-lead and guided by the teachers when needed.
The mood of the Early Childhood is that of reverence, festivity and gratitude as we engage in purposeful work and joyful play.
Dandelion Preschool is an indoor and outdoor program serving children between the ages of 2 years 9 months and 4 1/2 years old. The Dandelion Preschool day runs from 8:30am-1pm (starting Fall 2021 with aftercare until 5:30pm). At Dandelion Preschool each day of the week is defined by its specific activity, be it bread-making, soup-making, painting and farm tasks. On arrival the children take great nourishment and pleasure in knowing what is in store for them and how the day will unfold.
Children arrive between 8:30am and 9:00am. Once everyone is present, we have a light morning snack, and move right into our activity of the day. Once our activity is completed, including clean-up, the children return to another period of free play. Free play ends with a song of tidying and gathering and we all work together to bring our space back to order. We then have a small rest together while the teachers sing lullabies to help children relax and come to quiet. A rooster crow tells us it is time to get up and prepare to eat our warm snack. Before each meal, a blessing is sung to remind us of the bounty of the earth and all we have to be grateful for. Snack and lunch are typically provided by the program (currently unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions).
After a warm snack children play freely, help teachers weed and tend the garden, and observe nature in all her glory, especially as she manifests in snails and roly-polies. Play time comes to an end as we gather in our “Mulberry Bush” circle time, for songs, poems and finger games. As the day comes to an end, we gather for a story and puppet show by one of the teachers. Stories shared are simple nature tales, as well as various folktales and fairy tales from around the world.
Currently the program offers two days hiking in McLaren Park and three days on our school Farm. Drop-off and pick-up alternate on a set schedule between these locations.
For the 2021-2022 school year, we will begin operating out of 1433 Wayland Street, just around the corner from our main campus and just one block from McLaren Park. We will continue to have 3 outdoor days - two hike days in McLaren Park and one farm day - in addition to 2 days at the preschool location.
This strong experience of rhythm, warmth, and care at school in the very early years sets the children up for the next big adventure into Golden Bridges Kindergarten!
We offer two Kindergarten classes that meet the children of San Francisco in a unique and exciting way. The Kindergarten day runs from 8:30-1:00 each day, with aftercare until 5:30pm (under review for 2021-2022). The children currently spend their days hiking in McLaren Park, with pick up and drop off at the park. In a typical year the days rotate between a set schedule of indoor days, farm days, and hike days.
Our mixed-age classes of 4-6 year olds serve many purposes, but most importantly offer the chance for the Kindergarteners to become an elder in their second year, mastering the skills and rhythm of our program, and gaining invaluable self-confidence before they enter First Grade.
Indoor days are structured with the rhythm of circle time or morning greeting,
activities such as painting, baking, sewing, drawing and seasonal food projects and crafts. We honor free play with knowledge of the great benefits of child-led play where their imaginations are nurtured and encouraged to expand. Toys are made from wood and natural fabrics, and the children are encouraged to stretch the flexibility of their minds by having objects become many different things.
Each class spends days hiking in McLaren Park and at our school Farm. We joyfully engage our bodies with weeding, harvesting vegetables and herbs for soup, hauling big logs for structures and play. This is also where we chop vegetables for farm soup, eaten with our homemade bread. There is a deep experience of the seasons when the children get long stretches of time on the land; they see what it is like for the land to sleep in Winter, to bud in Spring and to bring forth its great bounty in Summer and Fall.
Each day ends with an oral storytelling experience, told by their teacher, and often accompanied by a puppet show. The stories come from far and wide and are often therapeutic tales, created by the teachers themselves. This early language development of taking in an oral story serves as the stepping stones for learning how to read and write in the grades. Stories foster memory skills and allow the children to develop and live into the rich imagery of their own mental pictures.
"I wish I could transport you to the woods, to see what I have seen. The shining wonder on children's faces as they experience the sensory richness of mud, leaves, and water. You would see with your own two eyes what science has proven —studies of many forest schools thriving in Europe right now show that schools like GBS offering real, measurable benefits to students academically, physically and emotionally."