In 1965, Roberta Wambolt opened the doors of CNS Wayland with a group of mothers who were looking for group socialization for their toddlers. Now, 55 years later, the private preschool school is celebrating over five and a half decades in the town of Wayland.
Today, Community Nursery School has programs serving children ages 2.9 years through kindergarten. The school’s purpose and philosophy remain the same: CNS is committed to providing a warm, nurturing, and supportive environment that encourages young children to develop towards their best potential.
We sat down with Roberta and Beth to talk about the changes that have taken place over the last five and half decades, and the exciting plans for this school year.
Why do you think CNS has been able to last 55 years?
Roberta: CNS has served as your neighborhood school because there remains the same need in the early years of children’s lives — a need to learn how to socialize, grow, and develop with peers of a similar age. They thrive with the dedication and encouraging nature of highly qualified teachers.
What is the best part of CNS?
Roberta: The teachers! The teachers at CNS Wayland are like a family and we love your children like they are family as well. Our staff is extremely well-trained and filled with knowledge about young children, and working with them is a blast.
Why do families continue to choose CNS?
Roberta: CNS continues to be a tradition of local families. We have many graduates who have now become parents themselves and return to us with their own precious children. We also love to have our graduates continue to visit as they enter elementary school and beyond. What a gift it is to be part of the community where this is valued — a rare treasure in today’s fast-paced world.
When you started CNS did you have any idea that you would still be involved 55 years later?
Roberta: No, I had no idea! But I am blessed beyond measure to still be a part of it. I love coming to the school and being with the young students, and watching my own daughter, who now runs the school, teach the students. Getting our littlest children off to a strong start sets the tone for their educational career. The laughter and delight a young child brings is the best part of life. Teaching them and helping them to develop and learn has always been like medicine to me. It’s such a life-giving job that I am grateful to still be part of.
What is your favorite thing about being a teaching director?
Beth: I love my role as a teaching director because it allows me to live my life dream of helping young children grow and learn to be the best they can be, alongside nurturing and encouraging parents and teachers. I feel that a child’s first exposure to school should help them develop a solid base of trust, as well as a curiosity about learning and exploring new things. As a director, I serve on three very different director groups. I am a part of the Wayland directors, which is town specific, as part of the Framingham network, I am kept informed of all state and local happenings. As a part of the Central Mass association, I get support for all questions and state changes in regulations and requirements.
What are you most excited about for this school year?
Beth: I am so thrilled with all of our summer renovations. Our classrooms have never looked better! We have so many new families this year and it is so fun to watch the whole family make new friends and learn the routines and traditions that we hold here at CNS. We are already gearing up for our Holloween Parade and planning ahead for our annual Father’s breakfasts.
The biggest joy, every year, is the journey of childhood growth. Many of our children are with us for three years, in which we take them from toddlerhood to solidly ready for Kindergarten. It is amazing to be apart of this exciting process, and an honor to work with the kids and their families.
The CNS community is my favorite part of teaching — it’s made up of so many great families, and keeping in touch even after the kid’s graduate is the greatest gift. Watching generations of children come through the school is one of the biggest blessings. I love that our families are able to keep their children as number one in their lives. The children here are thriving and so joyful, what a treasure to be apart of this team.
Have you ever wondered why we use play-based learning at CNS?
When deciding where to send your children to preschool, you should look at the philosophies of the school. Many families have already secured their child’s spot in a preschool, for next year, but some are still deciding where to enroll their children as this year progresses. One thing that we emphasis when choosing a preschool is if the type of program a school offers fits your family’s philosophy.
Here at Community Nursery School, we place a large emphasis on play-based learning.
Play-based learning is an approach that when implemented in the early years of primary school can prepare children academically, socially, and psychologically for the rest of their schooling years.
In fact, research has shown that play-based learning improves children’s developmental and academic learning outcomes. It also sets a child up for success by teaching them essential skills like socialization, exploration, discovery, experimentation, and problem-solving.
What is Play-Based Learning?
After spending years working with different age groups, CNS Director Beth Fuce came to the conclusion that children are naturally inclined to play, making play-based programs the greatest way to teach other skills while letting children roam free with their imaginations.
When you use play as the context for learning, it allows children to subconsciously use their imaginations and innocense to teach them how to explore, discover, experiment, and solve problems in a creative way.
Play-based learning encourages a child to use their own brain to make decisions, which teaches them how to think analytically at a young age. We’ve seen great success at CNS with this approach, as it encourages children to do what they do best — play — while simultaneously teaching them valuable lessons.
This approach involves both teachers supported and child-initiated learning. Through this method, a teacher encourages a child’s learning and inquiry through interactions that will aim to expand the child’s thinking to higher levels.
Also, whilst children are drawing, or playing dress-up, a teacher may pose questions that will encourage problem-solving, hypothesizing and prediction. It allows children to experience hands-on learning that many schools are lacking these days. Not only this, but it is a process that encourages a child’s growth when it comes to literacy and analytical thinking, which will prepare them for Kindergarten.
Although we can rave about the successes children have had with play-based learning at Community Nursery School, research also funds that implementing play-based learning in a child’s early years sets them up for long-term success.
Play-Based Learning Versus Direct Instruction?
Over the years, learning methods have changed a bit, but play-based learning remains a traditional, and constant method. We use it at CNS because of the positive lasting impact we have seen in our own students, as well as the feedback from parents.
Two main positives of play-based learning over direct instruction:
1. It offers long-term benefits and effects – Excellent play-based preschool programs will expose children to problem-solving and learning through self-initiated activities and teacher guidance. These are skills that are generally taught in kindergarten so that students.
Meanwhile, teacher-centered approaches focus on teaching and guiding children in basic academic skills. This is probably the more traditional approach, where teachers constantly instruct the children and leave little room for self-discovery. When the children reach Kindergarten, teachers will start to allow them to try to problem-solve on their own, which is hard for kids who haven’t been encouraged to do so in the past.
2. Motivates learning in a positive way – Research has also suggested that play-based learning is a more effective approach in primary school programs as well. These studies demonstrate that a child’s learning outcome is higher in play-based programs as opposed to a child’s learning outcomes in direct-instruction school.
Further studies also concluded that children in direct-instruction programs have experienced negative aftermath because of a negative correlation to learning. This type of learning ultimately leads a student to become less motivated to learn, to develop noticeable behavior problems, as well as being prone to stress. These cases demonstrate that this type of learning is only a temporary method, as the child’s future teachers will have to teach them new methods.
Play-based learning at CNS
In each room, there are centers for math manipulatives, reading circles, writing and coloring tables alongside science tables, kinesthetics, and sensory tables. We spend time singing songs, learning and writing poetry, finger play with flannel boards, role-playing, and acting out stories.
All of these activities are fun for the kids, but also teach them valuable lessons. Each day we complete lessons that are based on our 3-year curriculum program that are both interesting and educational for the kids.
What can children achieve through play-based programs?
Just like any traditional approach, play-based early years program are focused on two things: teaching and learning. Children in these programs experience free play and guided play with intentional teaching. As explained above, this type of free play is spontaneous and directed by the child, as the teacher is only involved as a co-player in the activities.
Both these programs have benefits for children’s learning, and can be used in different ways. A play-based environment fosters exploration, discovery, positive attitudes, and social skills, all things we focus on at Community Nursery School.
1. Play-based learning encourages inquiries, exploration, and discovery. Involvement in play-based programs stimulates a child’s enthusiasm for exploration and discovery while simultaneously motivating children to question things in a healthy way, promoting concentration and focus.
Involvement also encourages them to engage in flexible and higher-level of thinking processes that are considered essential for the 21st-century learner. This sets up a preschooler for future academic success, as opposed to a child who hasn’t experienced this. These skills can include processes for analysis, problem-solving, evaluating, creativity, and applying knowledge.
2. Play-based learning supports positive attitude. Play-based learning also helps support a positive attitude towards learning, as opposed to a negative one. Children will begin to imagine, become curious, enthusiastic and persistent to learn more. It will foster a positive spirit around learning, instead of a negative one, which can be seen in many children who think of learning as a chore.
3. Play-based learning increases social interactions with teachers. Its inquiry-based nature of play can be seen through the social interactions between children and teachers. Teachers play an active role in leading children’s interactions in the play or program, and this is overlooked.
Our teachers at CNS support children in developing their social skills such as sharing, cooperation, responding to ideas, and resolving conflicts in and out of the classroom. Teachers may also use a child’s motivation and interest in exploring ideas and concepts. This way, children obtain and practice essential academic skills in a playful setting.
We have found that students who are in play-based classrooms tend to have an increased ability to share animated stories, as have multiple studies.
Play-Based Learning Prepares Children Up For Long-Term Success
When choosing a preschool for your child, it is important to decide not only what you want the outcome to be, but how you want your child to grow through the experience.
Traditional methods such as direct instruction and teacher-led learning methods have their position in educational contexts. However, various points of research, has shown the benefits and long-term effects of play-based programs for preschoolers and children.
In these programs, most of their time spent in play will be seen as essential for learning and not as a reward for good behavior. Thus, children will have a more active input into what and how they learn, developing their own learning methods at an early age.
Play-based programs for preschoolers and young children can offer a strong basis for long-term success academically and socially. We use play-based learning at Community Nursery School because these programs support the development and evolution of socially competent learners.