Our Philosophy

We believe children are the world’s most valuable asset. Children are born with astounding potential. We provide a place that respects all children and their right to create, discover, explore, and learn. In a diverse world, we encourage children to explore their similarities and differences in respectful and safe ways. At Our Neighborhood, each child has a right to question, discuss, and disagree.

We believe children learn best in the context of secure respectful relationships. We make it a priority to support relationships between and among children, teachers, families, and helpers. We hope these relationships will create a close neighborhood of support and learning: Our Neighborhood.

Our classroom and outdoor environments are designed in a way that maximizes learning and reflects our values. An environment must challenge children to learn in safe and healthy ways. The environment design, and material choices, emphasize the importance of relationships and connection to the world in which we live.

Our teachers are early childhood experts, who have both child development education, and experience working with children. Teachers construct learning with children using a project approach inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia. Teaching strategies are often reflected upon and adjusted based on the individual child or group, as well as current child development research.

Our children develop critical thinking and problem solving skills from infancy. We believe it is important to encourage children to plan, prepare, and think about their learning and their ideas. The project approach to learning allows for in-depth exploration and discovery based on children’s expressed interests. Teachers then use the children’s projects and interests to incorporate concrete math, science, and literacy skills.

We believe that when given the opportunity, encouragement, and guidance, children will not only meet but surpass our expectations and achieve great things. We can do this TOGETHER.

Our Inspiration

As you look closely at our philosophy, you will see it shapes everything we do. Our inspiration is largely drawn from our experiences with children, and our value for children’s rights. We have adopted parts of the socio-cultural theories of Vygotsky and Brofenbrenner. We have developed our curriculum based on inspiration from the schools of Reggio Emilia, and observations from schools throughout the United States. Through our Reggio inspiration we have created beautiful classrooms inspired by nature, and set up to invite children’s deep exploration. We have been inspired by Magda Gerber and the RIE Associates (Resources for Infant Educarers). Our study of RIE has shaped our classrooms to be calm, materials to be simple and open ended, and development to be natural and unrushed. The work of Dr. Becky Bailey has inspired our use of respectful language, shaping the way we guide children to develop self-regulation and strong decision-making skills. The many books written by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter have helped shape our curriculum and inspire our environments.

ONCDC Curriculum Goals

Support young children to build essential life skills.

The seven essential life skills we support are defined by Ellen Galinsky in the
book "Mind in the Making"; Focus and Self-Control, Perspective Taking, Communicating, Making Connections, Critical thinking, Taking on Challenges, and Self-Directed Engaged Learning.

Help children develop their knowledge across content areas through their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

Our teachers observe and support children’s natural desire to learn through play and exploration. Teachers then use the children’s projects and interests to identify opportunities to explore developmentally appropriate math, science, and literacy skills.

Foster relationships between children, teachers and families.

Relationships are the basis of our society. We help children enter into, build, and maintain relationships within our school family. We are aware of the ways to support relationships through our everyday activities, our language choice, and the social situations we model for children.

ONCDC Values

Value-Based Decision Making

We make decisions, and act in ways that are consistent with our values. We work to hold true to this across relationships, time, and context. Emotions give us deeper insight into our values and needs. However, they can cloud our judgment. We work to manage our emotions; to build deeper understanding of what is really important to us. In our society, fear has the ability to hijack decision making. When we encounter safety issues, we work to understand fear and ensure safety is balanced with our other values, to make an intentional value-based decision. We understand rules have a place in our organization to provide clarity, but whenever possible, we work to minimize rules and work instead from our values.

Conscious Connection

Connection is something that happens within and between many parties. We recognize the impact of our connections, and choose intentionally how to enhance meaningful connections. We connect within ourselves through our sensations, feelings, thoughts, ideas, and actions. We connect with children through play, care, learning, and just being together. We connect with families, other teachers, our classroom, school, and world. Our Neighborhood values and encourages those connections through documentation, storytelling, and gathering together.


Everyone comes into interactions with their own ideas, principles, values, experiences, feelings, and needs. Your unique reality brings sustenance to our process. Authentically sharing ourselves drives our purpose and advancement. Only through authentic interactions can we reach the depth of understanding that we seek. Authenticity comes from each individual bringing their full physical, mental, and emotional presence to our process. We embrace and honor each individual sharing their authentic self.

Mutual Respect

We care for one another. We value everyone’s needs equally. We acknowledge, listen, and consider other perspectives. We create space for ideas, plans, goals, and mistakes to be celebrated and learned from. Respect does not mean doing what you’re told or agreeing. Respect drives deeper. Respect in our everyday interactions comes from deeply understanding one another.

Free Choice

Children, and every human, have the right to free choice. We make choices for ourselves based on our needs. Those choices are intentional. We account for alternatives, make plans, and set goals to meet our needs. Good choices come from deep thought, understanding, and experience. We make space for reflective dialogue to promote thoughtful choice, while simultaneously creating a non-judgmental space where it is safe to make mistakes. Free choice is only possible if there is not judgment, punishment, or other manipulations of choice.

ONCDC Principles

Learning is a Reflective Practice; Life-Long and Judgement-Free

Learning is more than simply acquiring bits of information. True learning is deep; it reflects understanding of context, impact, and connection. True learning doesn’t begin and stop with formal schooling; it is a reflective process. Learning is pervasive in our everyday interactions and our reflection on our experiences. Academic learning is a narrow scope, though a part of learning, true learning goes beyond the academic. When we use the word learning, we know it encompasses more than simply what is easily measured. All humans are continually learning through reflection and meta-cognition, thinking about your thinking. We flourish in an environment where each party commits to learning from and with one another. With curiosity and true learning driving us, we leave no space for judgment, shame, or exclusion.

Children Construct Knowledge through Play

Play is our driver. It is play that moves our learning forward. A safe space to practice, make mistakes, and explore is where learning happens. Knowledge is not passed down from teacher to child, but constructed by the child. Children need time and context to engage with their theories, ideas, and hypothesis. Through their everyday care, play, exploration, problem solving, and reflection, children build their knowledge. Information is not knowledge until it is played with. There is value in messing about. Play is the method for exploring children’s research questions.

We All Learn Best in the Context of Secure Relationships

Humans are social beings; we need one another. It’s our relationships with others that give us meaning and purpose. Through that relationship context, true learning thrives. The reflective dialogue with others deepens our knowledge, expands our play, and gives purpose to our work. Together we are stronger than each of us individually. Secure relationships based in our value for authenticity, conscious connection, mutual respect, and free choice provides an opportunity for deep learning.

Risk Taking is Part of Play and Learning

We promote children and adults to take calculated risks in the drive to explore, learn, and understand. It is through risk taking we explore and find our limits, strengths, joys, and challenges. We do not encourage or cajole a child to take risks they do not feel comfortable taking, nor do we stop children from understanding the consequences of their risks. Our role is to create an environment that contains sufficient risk to challenge children’s developing internal limits, while the environment protects children from hazards they cannot yet handle. We accept that small injuries are a normal part of early childhood, and this risk taking is not just an outcome, but an integral part of the learning process.

Children are Competent

We work to hold a strong image of children in our mind. We view children as competent, capable, and naturally good. We strive to see each child’s competencies, as well as help the child see their own competencies. When we see people as competent and capable, we are more likely to invest in them. We strive to see the whole child, not just their challenging behaviors, struggles or even strengths. Humans are complex and dynamic beings. We reject a deficit view of children. We view children as equal participants in the learning process.