Who is PCCH and what is your mission?
We often say “who we are is who we are not.” We are not a childcare center; we are a school. We operate on the school year schedule with a main school day from 9am-12pm (full-day pre-K available). We are also not a “tack-on” to a larger independent school–we are solely focused on the education of young children. We are a traditional play-based preschool.
Our mission statement is the following:
The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill Preschool is an inclusive community of learners that partners with families to help children become kind, curious, creative, courteous, and kindergarten-ready.
Who are your teachers?
Our teachers are educators dedicated to early childhood learning. They are also lifelong learners committed to reading and implementing current best practices research into the classroom.
What is your curriculum?
Our curriculum is rooted in the belief that social development and learning to be in a group setting away from a parent or primary caregiver is the primary educational goal of preschool. It’s why, we believe, you cannot homeschool for preschool!
Essential social and emotional skills for preschoolers include: comfortably separating from a parent, taking turns, using words in conflict situations, attending to a non-preferred task, expanding attention span, following multi-step directions, dressing and toileting independence, playing imaginatively and collaboratively, and transitioning from one activity to another.
In addition to a strong social and emotional foundation, we provide an excellent early academic experience. Our pre-kindergarten, junior kindergarten, and older 3s classes use the world-renowned Singapore Math method in developing numeracy skills. We believe that this play-based, hands-on curriculum provides the strongest foundation for early elementary school mathematics and a lifetime love of numbers and problem solving.
Our literacy program is rooted in a current best practices research. The earliest literacy skills include listening and retelling stories, sequencing three step stories to show cause and effect, developing “sense of text,” predicting what will happen in a story, and narrating captions for drawings. As students master these skills, we then begin formal work on capital letter recognition, gross motor sensory play in creating letters (play-doh, tracing in rice, sticker patterns), and pencil skills through art projects. Verbal awareness through learning about rhyme, vocabulary development, and song/poem memorization advance a student’s reading-readiness. By the time our students are ready to master letter-sound correspondence, we use a pure phonics curriculum based on the Wilson method. Many of our pre-kindergarten students leave our school comfortably reading books such as the “Elephant and Piggie” series. Our writing curriculum use the Handwriting without Tears method. All children who are 3 and older have their own Handwriting without Tears book and journal.
Finally, there is increasing research on the importance of content knowledge in academic achievement. Essentially, for many years, there has been an emphasis in early childhood and elementary education on skills-based learning. What we now know, however, is that a mastery of facts leads to the highest levels of reading comprehension and higher order thinking and writing in later grades. With this in mind, we are cognizant of our responsibility to implement a thematic curriculum that includes exposure to “things you should know,” and as such we draw heavily from the Core Knowledge curriculum developed by E.D. Hirsch at the University of Virginia. Our students learn about the lives of famous Americans and American symbols, the solar system, weather, animals, plants, community helpers, fairy tales, geography, the human body, and many other thematically focused units of study.
The most important thing to remember, however, is that we value play and exploratory learning so all of this academic content is presented in an engaging and developmentally appropriate way. Your child is likely to tell you that they played all day and that Mercury is the planet closest to the sun all in the same breath.
Do you teach religion? What is the relationship between the Church and the School?
We are a mission, but not a ministry, of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The church supports us financially and helps us to improve our program and facilities. A member of the church Session is responsible for facilitating that relationship. The church generously helps pay the tuition for students in unusual circumstances, for example students who are refugees or in kinship/foster care, and does not charge us rent.
At the winter holidays, our children learn about both religious and secular Christmas.They also learn about any other holiday or tradition that people in our community celebrate. This year, we have celebrated Hanukkah, Diwali, Lunar New Year, and Eid. Classrooms do a non-sectarian blessing before snack. Big picture, we are not a Christian nursery school in the sense that our children do not memorize Bible verses or regularly learn Bible stories, however, there is exposure to many different religious traditions, including Christianity.
What afternoon or auxiliary programming do you offer?
Our primary school day is 9am-12pm and the vast majority of our students are only here for that time period. We do offer full-day (9am-3pm) pre-kindergarten, and out pre-kindergarten students have a full afternoon curriculum.
We offer an Early Birds program from 8am-9am. Some students choose to extend their school day until 1pm and stay with us for lunch bunch. Students pack lunches, which we refrigerate. We order pizza on Wednesdays and many students choose to “drop in” on Wednesdays for that reason.
From 1pm-3pm, students who are in our preschool and junior-kindergarten (3-years-old and older, but not in pre-kindergarten, fully-toilet trained 2-year-olds are allowed in the 22-23 school year but will not be going forward) can participate in our Afternoon Adventures program. Students complete a brief 30-minute rest period, followed by a structured enrichment lesson and outdoor play. The afternoon lessons rotate and change at the trimester. Examples include Lego Robotics on Wednesdays, Soccer Tuesdays, and Ballet Fridays. Families review the options and sign up for the trimester. Drop ins are always welcome.
Attendance in our auxiliary programs is at the discretion of the faculty and the directors. We may decide that a student is not yet mature enough to handle a full-day program without a real nap time. If this is the case, we will ask a family to stay for only the main school day and then reassess the students’ readiness on a regular basis. For this reason, we encourage you to not rely on afternoons for your childcare needs, especially if your child is new to our school.
Where do PCCH Preschool families live?
Our families primarily live in 3 areas: Northwest Philadelphia (Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Roxborough, East Falls), Springfield Township (Wyndmoor, Erdenheim, Flourtown), and Whitemarsh Township (Whitemarsh, Lafayette Hill). The average families travels less than 15 minutes to get to us.
Where to PCCH graduates attend kindergarten?
Our students attend a variety of elementary schools. Over the past 5 years, 1/3 have gone to neighborhood public schools, 1/3 to Catholic and other religious schools, and 1/3 to area independent schools. We maintain a close relationship with the admissions directors and principals at our “next step” schools and invite them to our campus regularly.
The Class of 2022 plans on attending the following institutions:
Norwood Fontbonne Academy
Ancillae Assumpta Academy
Our Mother of Consolation
Abington Friends School
Germantown Friends School
Plymouth Meeting Friends School
Armenian Sisters Academy.
In addition, we have relationships with and current older siblings attending: Penn Charter, Springside Chestnut Hill, CW Henry Elementary, Green Woods Charter, St. Philip Neri, and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
What special classes do you offer?
All students have Spanish once a week taught by a native of Barcelona. In 2022-2023, we will be bringing back a music and a creative movement teacher to our faculty. Students who are here 3 or more days will have 30 minutes of music, creative movement, and Spanish each week. Students who are here for 2 days will have 2 of the 3 every week.
Are there ways for parents to volunteer in the classroom?
Yes! We love parent volunteers. Parents must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to spend time in our classrooms. Teachers may ask for help with a special project or event or a parent may want to volunteer to help prepare snack or help maintain our school. All classes have “mystery reader” on Fridays.
Do you have community events?
Our Parents’ Committee is very active in helping to build our community. Every month, they organize some kind of event outside of the school day. This year, they have included a parent hike in the Wissahickon, parent art night at a local painting studio, and parent nigh at a brewery. We have family community events too, which include playground meet ups, Valentines making parties, zoo nights, and other fun activities.
At school, we host a Halloween parade, a Thanksgiving mini-celebration, a holiday pageant, Donuts with Dad, Muffins with Mom, and graduation. We also have Back to School night for parents.