What is a Cooperative?
A preschool cooperative is a non-profit preschool run by parents who work closely with qualified teachers to create a positive, nurturing environment in which children can thrive in all aspects of their development. Meridian Street Preschool Co-op was established in 1957 and is currently housed in First Friends Quaker Meeting. Parents serve on either the school’s board or at a job supporting one of the positions. Each position oversees the function of a specific area of the school, and every parent has a voice. Our teachers are our only paid staff. They are selected for their qualifications as well as their demonstrated skills in working with children. Our teachers routinely continue their education through workshops, meetings, and observations of other preschool teachers.
What is MSPC’s educational philosophy?
We believe play is the “work” of children and that parents and children learn together through play. We provide a wide range of play areas and activities that allow children to direct their own free play. Freedom of choice enhances the complete development of the child and encourages curiosity. Children are also encouraged to express their feelings, both positive and negative, with words. Through our group activities, children learn to respect each other, control their bodies, and develop good listening skills.
Is there structure to the children’s day?
Yes, each day has a consistent schedule for the children. Every day includes free play (with many large and small motor activities available), circle time (group interaction, listening to others), snack (provided by a co-oping parent), and outdoor playtime. Each of these experiences provides opportunities for different types of learning, and the social aspects a child needs for developmental growth.
How are parents prepared for their role in the classroom?
Each new participating parent attends a 6-hour training session conducted by a representative from the Indiana Council of Preschool Cooperatives. This training covers child development, age- appropriate educational guidance techniques, and classroom management skills. Before school begins, MSPC holds an all-school orientation, as well as smaller teacher-led orientations. This gives teachers an opportunity to welcome new parents, and outline what parent participation in the classroom looks like, as well as giving parents an opportunity to ask questions. In addition, three parent education meetings are held throughout the year, and feature a speaker on relevant family/child topics.
How often do I participate in the classroom and how will I know when I am to participate?
The 2/3s parents participate once every 4-6 weeks, the 3/4s parents approximately once a month, and the 4/5s parents are in the classroom about once every 3 weeks. This can vary according to the size and individual needs of the class. Each class has a liaison that coordinates the calendar for classroom participation. Generally, sign-ups occur every 3 months and are held at orientation before school begins and at parent education meetings throughout the year. Every effort is made to accommodate personal schedules. For unexpected schedule conflicts or illnesses, participating parents can swap days in advance or even the morning of class.
I have small children; how can I co-op?
At MSPC, you are surrounded by like-minded parents with whom you can swap babysitting for younger children during your co-op times. Our co-op is truly a large, extended family. We support and look out for each other. I work full/part time; can co-op work with my schedule? Yes, in most cases. We have parents who work full-time and use personal time for the days they are scheduled to participate. Others have caregivers – grandparents, a nanny, etc. – participate for them. Still others do a combination of these options. Those who work part time usually work their participation days around their work schedules.
This is my child’s first school experience. What can be done to make the transition easier?
MSPC has park play dates and family picnic nights several times throughout the summer. This is a great way for your child to meet other children in the class and for you to meet other parents. Also, the week before school begins, we have a “Meet the Teacher” session. This is held at the school, in your child’s classroom. All classroom materials are available for exploration, and the teacher can interact with the children in a relaxed setting with the parents still present. Once the school year begins, if a child is uncomfortable with the parent leaving, we work with you to help build the child’s confidence and comfort. We will NEVER require you to leave.
Does MSPC offer an extended day?
Yes, an optional extended day is offered to 3/4s children on Thursdays. An optional enrichment day is offered to 4/5s children on Mondays in addition to the regularly scheduled enrichment day on Wednesdays. The extended and enrichment days meet until 1:30pm and are led by a teacher. This time gives our teachers the opportunity to explore educational concepts in more depth. A packed lunch is necessary. The extended and enrichment day options begin approximately six weeks after the start of school.
Bottom line – Why should I consider a cooperative preschool?
A co-op provides a gradual transition from home to school, as parents are in the classroom with their child on a regular basis. Your child will learn to share you with others and to trust and accept help from other adults. As a parent, you get to take the lead in your child’s education for years to come. Being in the classroom regularly, lets you experience first-hand how your child is developing socially, emotionally, and intellectually. And it is a chance to develop new friendships with like-minded families.