About : Philosophy


Our Philosophy

At Cow Hollow School we hold an image of the child as one who experiences the world, who is part of the world from birth, who is dynamic and curious—a child who approaches the world with a competent set of learning strategies, styles and abilities. We believe that each child has the right to a nurturing, safe, interesting and authentic environment in which to grow, build relationships and make connections.

Through learner-centered (parent, teacher and child as learners) investigation and in-depth project work and exploration, the children learn to hypothesize, predict, problem solve, negotiate and co-create theories. We work toward shared meaning across relationships and curricula that produces an atmosphere of attention to various points of view, learning styles and dispositions. Reflected in our practices as teachers, director, and advocates for children, families and community is an investment and commitment to diverse learning populations, community building, and learner empowerment.

Cow Hollow School celebrates diversity as an organic extension of the varied experiences of all people, both within and beyond the school community. We recognize the imperative to explore and investigate different cultural, social and experiential identities through ongoing, collaborative engagement.

Our Guiding Principles

Within the rich inquiry and play-based curriculum at CHS, the following principles guide as well as define our approach to learning and teaching:

  • Every child is capable and competent
  • Children learn through play, investigation, inquiry and exploration
  • Children and adults learn and play in reciprocal relationships with peers, family members, and teachers
  • Adults recognize the many ways in which children approach learning and relationships, express themselves, and represent what they are coming to know
  • Process is valued, acknowledged, supported, nurtured and studied
  • Documentation of learning processes acts as memory, assessment, and advocacy
  • The indoor and outdoor environments, and natural spaces, transform, inform, and provoke thinking and learning
  • School is a place grounded in the pursuit of social justice, social responsibility, human dignity and respect for all

Theoretical Framework and Inspiration

At CHS our theoretical framework, inspiration and pedagogical choices are firmly rooted in constructivism and social constructivism. Constructivism is an approach to teaching and learning that asserts that people actively construct their own understanding of information—that learners combine existing information with new information, such that new knowledge provides personal meaning. Learners build  knowledge and their own representations of knowledge from their experiences with others, with materials, and with their environments. Learning does not occur by transmitting knowledge from the teacher, the book or rote memorization to the child’s brain; instead each competent, capable child constructs his/her  personal and valid understanding of information.

The constructivist teacher/learner helps the young learner attach to new information by finding connections to what the learner is interested in and/or already knows. This process of learning is called co-constructing information, as both teacher and learners are engaged in a reciprocal experience: the child learning with the teacher, the teacher learning about the young learner’s abilities, and meaning-making expanded, developed and transformed.

We are also deeply inspired and informed by the extensive collection of work and data from the founders and educators from the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Their work pushes us to make evident how we value children, learn from children and maximize our own learning potential, while simultaneously maximizing that of the young learner. We strive, like the schools in Reggio Emilia, to create “a school that is active, inventive, livable, documentable, and communicative” (Loris Malaguzzi). The schools in Reggio Emilia do not provide us with a curriculum model, and neither does the aforementioned theoretical framework. Rather, they provide us with a context for asking questions, with a lens from which to view our own experience, and with the inspiration to develop, change, value the learner, and reflect upon our image of teaching, learning and living.

Justice, Equity, and a Diversity of Perspectives

Cow Hollow School is a community of families and teachers from a broad range of cultures, nationalities, family structures, languages, and economic backgrounds. We strive to be a community where each child and family is included, valued, and represented, and where each participant is actively invited to voice and contribute ideas, opinions, questions, and values.

Learning about fairness, equity, and human differences are central tasks of early childhood. It is with joy and conviction that we support children in these distinct and important learning experiences. Our commitment to education for social justice is evident every day in the language we use with children, our approach to social conflict resolution, the materials that we choose, and in our focus on inviting and celebrating family cultures in the classroom.

Cow Hollow School Position Statement on Social Justice

Just what do we mean by “Education for Social Justice”?  The following statement was collaboratively crafted by Cow Hollow School faculty in 2014:

Education for social justice cultivates the following understandings:
  • Respect and empathy for:
    • Different ideas, perspectives, and voices

    • Human differences in appearance, culture, and lifestyle

    • Both the individual and the group

  • Interconnectedness between:
    • Our actions which always have an impact on others

    • People on a micro level: family, classroom & school

    • People on a macro level: national & global issues

  • Social responsibility to:
    • Contribute and participate in one’s community

    • Respect and also shape the guidelines of one’s community

    • Take ownership of one’s environment

  • Fairness and equity including:
    • Children’s right to access to quality materials, experiences, and education

    • Human, political, economic, and civil rights

    • Speaking up and taking action when things aren’t right

Cow Hollow School supports the ever-growing diversity of our school population through outreach and admissions. This includes, but is not limited to: family structure, culture, race, religion, socio-economics, sexual orientation, home languages, gender, identity, and mental and social abilities. It is our goal that the children and families of our school reflect the rich diversity of the city in which we live.

For more on the diversity and demographics of our school community, click HERE