At Overlee, we believe that play is the foundation for lifelong learning, that children thrive and grow outside in nature, and that parent-participation is the key to building community.
A PLAY-BASED APPROACH, OUTSIDE IN NATURE
Research shows that for preschool-aged children, the best outcomes occur when learning is embedded in play and that children thrive in nature. Overlee’s curriculum is based on four research-based principles:
- Children need both unstructured free play and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults.
- Academic and social development are so inextricably intertwined that the former must not exceed the latter.
- Nature provides the richest environment for children’s growing minds and bodies.
- Learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.
Why Play Matters
You’ve seen the term PLAY BASED SCHOOL! But what does that mean, exactly? And more importantly, why is it important for your child’s development and education? Well, let us help break down all the learning that’s going on right before your eyes…
In a play-based program such as ours, you won’t see teachers giving rote instruction on concepts such as letters, numbers, shapes, or colors. Instead, you will see children sorting nature bits or blocks (patterning and math!), pouring water or sand through tubes at the sensory table (science!), painting at the easel (colors and shapes!) just to name a few of the fun, play-centric activities we enjoy in each class. Supported by teachers and co-opers who are willing to sit down with them as they play, listen to their ideas, and have conversations with them, children are able to extend their comprehension of how the world works in a concrete and truly enjoyable way.
Another important aspect of education in the early years is literacy development. The children are read to regularly and are encouraged to engage with and explore stories and storytelling. Through play and with the support of teachers, children can explore letter recognition, letter sounds, symbolic thinking, rhymes and other early literacy skills, which build a foundation for eventually becoming enthusiastic readers and writers.
Finally, we must remember that school (and life) readiness skills are not merely a matter of knowing letters and numbers. It is equally important – perhaps even more so – that children have positive social and emotional experiences and develop strong higher-order cognitive skills. Each day, our teachers focus on helping children learn how to function well as a member of a group, make friends, and acclimate to the structures and routines of school. Opportunities for children to develop executive function and critical thinking skills – such as articulating and exchanging ideas, listening to other points of view, reconciling differing opinions, inventing novel ways of solving problems, and planning, strategizing, and organizing – are imbedded in every aspect of our program. These skills emerge naturally in preschool children through play, especially when they are given the time and space to experiment and explore.
As you can see, there are so many reasons why a play-based early childhood education is important in supporting the development of your whole child so that they are ready for their next step after preschool. At our core, calling ourselves “play-based” reflects our philosophy that children learn best through relevant, meaningful and concrete experiences. Each year, we are proud to send our “play-based”-educated oldest Birds off to elementary school, knowing that they have great motivation to learn, highly developed critical thinking and social skills, and a strong sense of confidence, self-reliance, and emotional well-being.
Benefits of Learning Outdoors, In Nature
The benefits of an outdoor learning model have been studied and the consensus is clear: for children of all ages, the physical and emotional results of being outdoors in nature are enormous. Children who learn outdoors develop greater emotional regulation, personal autonomy, confidence, problem-solving skills and initiative.
Children are naturally curious and quite scientific. Young children engage in experimentation (combining paint colors) as well as cause and effect (building then knocking down blocks.) Nature provides us with so many natural materials to work with! At Overlee, we are lucky to have an enormous playground that backs up to Taylor Park. Every day, and in all types of weather, we take the kids on nature walks, allowing them to explore and experience nature. We climb hills, walk on logs, greet favorite trees, and observe bugs, birds, worms, plants and the seasons. We enjoy playing with dirt, sticks, leaves and mud. Instead of speaking theoretically about the weather during morning meeting, our students literally and intentionally observe and feel the weather.
In 1945, a group of parents in the area of Arlington called Overlee Knolls founded Overlee Preschool Cooperative Association, making it one of the oldest preschools in Arlington. They wanted to provide an enriching preschool experience for their children at a reasonable cost. The Association hired professional teachers, and mothers served as assistants in the classroom. Parents managed the administration and maintenance of the school. In 1966, the school incorporated and became Overlee Preschool Association, Incorporated. Overlee has been located at the Church of the Covenant for more than 20 years. Overlee is a non-profit and non-sectarian. Overlee Preschool’s fine reputation today is testimony to the contributions of time, talents, and ideas by parents and teachers over many productive years.
Read more about Overlee Preschool’s history at the Arlington Public Library Center for Local History
What Makes Overlee Special
Overlee is a small, intimate school where parental involvement is the norm. Overlee is a family-centered, cohesive community with many relationships extending well beyond Overlee. Our emphasis is on play and teaching children to respect themselves and others. Children are perceived as independent and capable and are nurtured and appreciated for who they are. Our focus is on “Process,” not “Product.” The teachers have their plans for the day; however, we also follow the children and adapt the plan accordingly so that the children can explore and engage in developmentally appropriate experiences and experiments as they unfold! We believe Overlee provides a wonderful beginning to a child’s education that encourages the development of imagination through play and exploration.
Yellowbird and Bluebird Teacher
Louisa has a combined 27 years as a dedicated preschool educator. She is an advocate for play-based learning, the core philosophy of Overlee Preschool. This will be Louisa’s 21st year as Overlee’s Yellowbird teacher and her 16th year with the Bluebirds. Before coming to Overlee, Louisa taught for six years at Rock Spring Cooperative Preschool. Louisa was also a parent-member of Rock Spring Cooperative Preschool where her three beautiful daughters attended. As a cooperative member she held board positions as fundraising chair, member-ship coordinator and as a 2nd Vice President. For two decades she has also worked at the Providence Recreation Center on the weekends as an instructor in movement, child develop-ment and preschool art classes for children from infancy to four years old. Louisa is a member of the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC). Louisa grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. She obtained a B.A. degree in Psychology from George Mason University. When not in the classroom, Louisa enjoys gardening, cooking and sewing.
Louise was the 2021 Summer Purplebird teacher, and she will be Overlee’s Redbird teacher beginning in the fall of 2021. Louise has significant experience as an Overlee parent, co-oper, and Board member. All three of Louise’s sons attended Overlee between 2011 and 2020. During this period she held several Board positions including Member-ship Chair, Vice President, and Licensing Chair. Louise worked closely with the school director and county and state licensing officials on a frequent basis. She has studied several different educational philosophies and looks forward to making the Overlee Redbird experience a warm, fun, kind, and creative one. Louise is excited to help the Redbirds honor their curiosity and to help them develop a lifelong love of learning through Overlee’s play-based approach. Louise is a member of the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC). She obtained a B.A. degree from Duke University in English and French and European Studies with a minor con-centration in Child Psychology. In Louise’s spare time she enjoys photography, quilting and tennis.