From our Friends at the Parent-Child Preschools Organization :

Do You Co-Op? 

Interested in being highly involved in your child’s first educational experience? Looking for classrooms taught in science-backed, play-based inquiry? A cooperative school may be for you!  Cooperatives create a foundation for lifelong learning by teaching literacy, math, social skills and critical thinking experientially.

Learn more about these ten schools keeping the magic of learning through play alive on their campuses.

Ten Schools to Check Out

  1. Irvington Preschool: www.irvingtonpreschool.org

In the heart of NE Portland, three and four year olds at Irvington learn empathy, communication skills, conflict resolution, and critical thinking — all immersed with intention into their dynamic indoor/outdoor program. Sand pits, guinea pigs, a playground roller coaster and open-ended art, anyone? 


  1. Tigard Playschool: www.tigardplayschool.com 

Play is a family affair as parents help in the classroom and with the inner workings of the school. Says one parent, “being in the classroom with my daughters has helped me better understand and embrace how my child learns and how she interacts with friends.” Two- to six-year-old learners enjoy a play-based curriculum where teachers follow the lead of the students in developmentally appropriate ways.


  1. Woodhaven School: www.woodhavenschool.com 

In Woodhaven’s outdoor classroom you’ll find fairy cities, mud pies, or log forts being built as a group of parents huddle together organizing a summer camping trip. This nature-based institution creates lifelong impact. A sixth grade alumna says it best: “I remember playing imaginary games with my friends … Woodhaven is special to me because it was the start of everything … I met my best friends here.” The play-based curriculum develops literacy, math and communication skills all intertwined with the freedom to do what kids do best — play!


  1. Portland Tillamook Preschool: www.tillamookpreschool.org 

Creativity and imagination abound at Laurelhurst’s Tillamook Preschool. This indoor/outdoor preschool believes the magic of learning starts with child-led exploration. You may find a train track built through the classroom, or a herd of preschool “kitties” climbing on the play structure.  Experiential art projects, touch tables, imaginative play stations and a huge outdoor covered sandbox  give mixed-age learners ways to weave play into learning under the guidance of a 20-year lead teacher.  Says one parent, “The environment is so supportive and allows each child to grow at his or her own pace.”


  1. Gabriel Park Preschool: www.gabrielparkpreschool.com

Students at SW Portland’s Gabriel Park Preschool enjoy colorful classrooms with themed centers to explore science, art, reading and writing. They spend time building, engaging in sensory play, and stretching their imaginations at a pretend Post Office, Hot Drink Cafe, Camping Site, Fishing Pond, or Hawaiian Beach Vacation station!  Social-emotional skills, patience, and problem solving are taught through fun, creative play.  A large outdoor space with a kitchen , tricycles and sand pit are available everyday. Alumni express the ease in which their children transitioned to kindergarten, and credit the play-based model for instilling a lifelong love of learning.


  1. Brooklyn Cooperative Preschool: www.brooklyncooppreschool.org 

This 50-year-old institution provides full daylight open play spaces as well as a large outdoor playground in SE Portland.  The famous bike barn, spacious playground , and younger sibling nursery are just some of the highlights of this play-based preschool. Brooklyn’s Teacher Merry adapts the curriculum to the interests of the students; yoga, a shredded paper “snow” room transformed into a surprise birthday party, and the famous sand circles all teach children that they “make decisions for themselves,” at this child-led preschool where kids learn by doing.


  1. Village Preschool: www.villagepreschoolofportland.com 

At Village, students grow through play. Offering flexible days for student attendance, curiosity and play-based learning. The learning space is arranged to provide students with repeated access to the five essential experiences of early childhood development — encouraging exploration, supporting development, and promoting independence to provide them with a foundation for a lifelong love of curiosity and learning. Parents maintain continual communication with the teacher and are fundamentally involved in each aspect of their child’s first educational journey. 


  1. Hawthorne Family Play School: www.hawthornefamilyplayschool.org 

Welcome to a school that prioritizes social and environmental justice education in a joyful, play based learning, with a goal of nourishing change-maker spirits within each child (and parent!). Hawthorne Family Play School has a stunning natural playscape, outdoor programming to combat COVID, and offers flexible parent-participation structures to accommodate the needs of individual families. Says one grateful parent, “I am forever grateful for our experience at HFP. Things that make HFP so special are: the anti-bias curriculum, the beautiful play yard, experienced and passionate Teacher Susan, strong family partnerships and welcoming community!” 


  1. Cedar Hills Kindergarten and Preschool: www.cedarhillskp.org 

An Inspired life begins at this seventy year award-winning preschool at the intersection of 217/Hwy 26. Families enjoy small classes, block- and art-themed spaces, enhanced health and safety protocols, award-winning teachers, and over 70 years of learning through play. Their expansive natural playground with water and sand features gives children daily access to motor skill development and social skill building. Cedar Hills also houses a Kindergarten classroom where math and literacy are taught experientially. 


  1. Metzger Community Preschool: www.metzgerpreschool.com 

As one of the oldest operating cooperative preschools in the Portland metropolitan area, Metzger offers an interactive classroom where children self-guide their learning at various interest centers and a dynamic outdoor play area. Cooking projects, science projects, daily circle time all combine to enhance learning and community. Metzger believes that by learning through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility and live with disappointment. Imaginative play also seeds the development of empathy, a key ingredient for intellectual and social-emotional success.

PDX Parent Staff
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