The Golden Bridges' early childhood program includes one preschool class of 12-15 students each day and two kindergarten classes with 16 students in each class.
The first seven years of life are a time of growing into and taking hold of the body, and this process is nurtured through warm-hearted relationship, 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 serves children between the ages of 2 years 9 months and 4 1/2 years old. At Dandelion Preschool each day of the week is defined by its specific activity, be it bread-making, soup-making, painting and other meaningful work. 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 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning, head into the garden and begin playing right away. Once everyone is present, we have a light morning snack, and move right into our activity of the day. Many times this “activity” is the preparation of a snack or meal we will eat later. 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 we all work together to bring our play space back to order. We then have a small rest together on our cozy rug, while the teachers sing lullabys 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. Snack and lunch follow a rhythm in the week, and are provided by the program.
Before each meal, a blessing is sung to remind us of the bounty of the earth and all we have to be grateful for. After a warm snack, provided by the school, children prepare to go outside into the garden, where they will play freely, help teachers weed and tend the garden, swing and observe nature in all her glory, especially as she manifests in snails and roly-polies. Outdoor time comes to an end as we gather in our “Mulberry Bush” circle time, for songs, poems and finger games. We return indoors to share lunch together, also provided by the school, and as the day comes to an end, we gather rough 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.
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 optional aftercare going until 5:30. The children currently spend three school days split between the farm and indoors, one full day hiking in Glen Canyon and the last day is spent entirely indoors. Our mixed-age classes of 4-6 year olds serve many purposes, but most importantly offer the chance for the kindergarten 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 one full day hiking in Glen Canyon and three half-days at Golden Bridges 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 stories created by the teachers themselves. This early language development of taking in an oral story fosters memory skills and allows them to live into the rich imagery of their own mental pictures. These stories also serve as the stepping stones for learning how to read and write in the grades.
"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."