What is a Progressive Nursery School?

Progressive preschools are also known as Developmental, Child-Centered, or schools following the Bank Street Model.

Here are 10 features of a progressive school:

1) The philosophy is that children need to explore and learn through imaginary play, art, and block building. Play is considered the “work” of children and is taken seriously.

2) The progressive classroom is usually set up as a series of “centers” where learning can take place using open-ended materials. There might be a fantasy play area, a cluster of easels with paint, a block corner, a water table, puzzle area and more. Teachers set these environments up in response to what they see the children are interested in. They move among the areas and encourage the kids to pursue their own projects and ideas at these centers.

3) There is no pre-planned curriculum. Since teachers are following the children’s lead, what kids learn from year to year and between the morning and afternoon sessions may be different.

4) Children work at their own pace, learning through play.

5) The interaction is between the children as opposed to between the children and the materials (as with a Montessori preschool).

6) At no prescribed points are children expected to learn any particular skill. In fact, specific learning through teaching is frowned upon.

7) Social interaction between children is very important in a progressive classroom. There is much talk about “community.” Separation between child and parent is seen as a major developmental step and a lot of time and energy is spent on this.

8) The atmosphere is informal. Kids often call teachers by their first names and you would never find uniforms in such programs. The school is usually more relaxed about when a child should be toilet trained.

9) Children who attend progressive schools are usually more independent, curious, creative and likely to ask questions.

10) Children who attend progressive schools score higher on tests of problem solving and curiosity, but lower on IQ tests. If your child will need to be tested for private school or a gifted program after attending a progressive school, you will want to be sure he has gained all the abilities IQ tests will assess.