Reading, Writing, and Yoga Round Out Children’s School

Students at the Children’s School at Claremont McKenna College have embarked on yet another imaginative way to develop flexibility and strength and sharpen self- and spatial awareness: Yoga.

Coupled with the school’s developmentally-based program, which nurtures all areas of child growth, yoga was a welcome addition to the school last fall, says director Janet Dreyer, enriching a unique educational program that already embraces classical art, theatre, and music within its curriculum.

Once a week, Children’s School parent Jennifer Stark stops by to guide teachers, children, and student interns in various poses perceived to increase flexibility and concentration and encourage relaxation. Alligator. Bridge. Cat. Swan. The poses may even offer pint-sized practitioners a new way to think about their ABCs.

It’s not unusual to observe students of the Children’s School engaged in projects or activities that fall outside the traditional uses of paper and pen. One week they might be counting salt grains and nibbling on pretzels for a lesson in crystals; the next, learning to imitate Van Gogh’s brush strokes by rendering their own versions of Starry Night, or developing menus of words with special meanings to them “Mom,” “Dad,” “Flower,” “Dog,” then using them as early building blocks for sentence formation and structure.

In this way, the Children’s School is not so dissimilar from The Claremont Colleges, whose goal is to provide an outstanding education by fostering individual growth in a noncompetitive, cooperative environment, Dreyer says. And that goes for both its young enrollees, as well as the CMC students who contribute at the school, receiving practical application of coursework for developmental and cognitive psychology classes.

Mutual respect and effective communication among teachers, children, and student interns is central to the school’s unique climate, Dreyer says. Children receive consistent encouragement to speak, think, challenge, and ask questions. And in their roles as interns, college students are asked to harness the ability to truly listen to children and to also use words as tools to express ideas, opinions, and resolve conflict. They also are asked to enforce boundaries for the children and lead them in activities that require mutual respect, instead of scolding and restriction.

Dreyer says adding yoga to the weekly interaction between students, teachers and interns is another way to reinforce the concepts of respect and discipline for children, and also self-expression. “It’s also process oriented,” says Dryer, who hopes to continue the classes next year. “I see the children enjoying it and benefiting from it now, which can develop into a lifelong process.”