The Village Acorns

A PreKindergarten Program for 4 and 5-year-olds

An Outdoor Play-Based Program

Our youngest children will be introduced to the Village Charter School Philosophy – to educate the whole child physically, emotionally, socially, and academically at the child’s developmental and age-appropriate level within an outdoor classroom designed specifically for 4 and 5-year-olds. 

Why Outdoors?

For children to connect to nature, to the Earth, they must experience it firsthand.

Passage of Time

Before children can understand a calendar, they must observe seasonal change.

Early Literacy

Before children can learn to read and write, they must develop language skills and strengthen hand muscles.

Why Play-Based?

Brain Research

Play is not frivolous; it is brain building. (AAP, 2018)


Children are deeply engaged in learning built around their needs and interests.

Lifelong Learners

Children with positive and authentic school experiences will maintain a love for learning.

Play is Learning in Action

“A growing body of behavioral research establishes relationships between children’s play and development in several areas, including language (Toub et al. 2016), executive functions (Tominey & McClelland 2011), mathematics and spatial skills (Fisher et al. 2013), scientific thinking (Schulz & Bonawitz 2007), and social and emotional development (Dore, Smith, & Lillard 2015). One reason that play might be such a valuable pedagogical tool is that it features the precise contexts that facilitate learning. An amalgamated research field called the science of learning has identified four key ingredients of successful learning: learning occurs best when children are mentally active (not passive), engaged (not distracted), socially interactive (with peers or adults), and building meaningful connections to their lives (Hirsh-Pasek et al. 2015).”

Teacher as a Play Guide

In a play-based program, the teacher becomes the guide. The role of the teacher is to plan curriculum around the interests and needs of the specific children; to set the environment; to scaffold play, to ask open-ended questions. to support problem solving, and to observe and document learning.

In our program, children will be encouraged and supported to build community; to build emotional literacy, to build a deeper understanding of their world, and to take healthy risks. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics Promotes Play

Focusing on cultivating executive functioning and other skills through playful learning in these early years is an alternative and innovative way of thinking about early childhood education. Instead of focusing solely on academic skills, such as reciting the alphabet, early literacy, using flash cards, engaging with computer toys, and teaching to tests (which has been overemphasized to promote improved test results), cultivating the joy of learning through play is likely to better encourage long-term academic success. Collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, decision-making, a sense of agency, creativity, leadership, and increased physical activity are just some of the skills and benefits children gain through play.”

Meet the Teacher

Jess has been working with young children for over 20 years. For the past thirteen years, Jess has been teaching at the Children’s School, a lab school at Sonoma State. She has built and maintained beautiful outdoor classroom environments for children, learning about gardening for and with children year after year. It was in this time that Jess became passionate and dedicated to connecting children with nature. She developed innovative curriculum, pulling from various philosophies such as Nature-Based, Montessori, Project-Based, Reggio Emilia-Inspired, and Play-Based Education. As a Master Teacher, Jess has also trained and mentored adults and has proudly played a role in the growing of many educators.

With the state’s new vision of Universal PreKindergarten, Jess has been inspired to embark on a new journey at Village Charter School. Pulling from her depth of experience, Jess will be building a new PreKindergarten program, the Village Acorns. Jess will guide the youngest Village students through playful, adventurous, and collaborative learning while connecting to the state standards, California Preschool Learning Foundations and Curriculum Framework which encourages play-based learning and a whole child approach.