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A Unique Preschool in Turlock

On any given day a visitor to Turlock Nursery School will find preschoolers hard at work. But it might not be the kind of work one expects because the preschool adheres to the philosophy that “play is the work of the young child.” One will also find parents hard at work; reading to children, pushing a child on a swing, repairing a faucet, and painting a fence on a weekend. These unique types of work for both the child and parent are central aspects of what makes the preschool special. 

Parents interested in seeing Turlock Nursery School first hand are invited to stop by for an open house on Saturday, October 2, from 2:00pm to 4:30pm. Teachers and board members will be on hand to provide tours and hands-on demonstrations to showcase what makes the school a “unique place to learn.”
Inside the red and white, two-story schoolhouse, located at 415 Grant Street, there are no desks, chalkboards, computers, or video games. Instead, the rooms are devoted to creativity and exploration. One area is for building and includes an incredible assortment of wood blocks, train tracks, and construction toys. Another room features a reading corner and shelves filled with containers of Legos and other manipulatives. One room includes a complete “home center” and dress-up area, and there are other sections devoted to art, games, and puzzles. 
The yard is a child’s dream. For the active child there are swings, a zip line, climbing equipment, balance beam, and basketball hoops. If a child is in the mood to get dirty there is a giant sandbox and a garden. A full-sized boat, a wooden fire truck, a gigantic play deck with a tree house and fort, and a complete indoor playhouse are all available to stimulate a child’s imagination. 
Turlock Nursery School was founded in 1972 as an educational organization devoted to preschool children and their parents. Its stated purpose is to provide children with a warm, inviting, and well-equipped setting where they are free and safe to play and learn. The school is designed to meet the needs of the "whole child" that is, their physical, creative, social, cognitive, and emotional development. The goal is that the child’s experiences at school will allow them to develop a positive self-image, develop self-expression and creativity, increase independence, learn to be with other children and to work in groups, and to develop responsibility.
The specially designed setting also provides parents with many opportunities to learn about themselves, their children, and children in general. At the heart of the school’s philosophy is the belief that the parent is the first and best teacher for the preschool child. 
The school offers a two and three-day cooperative morning preschool program and an extended afternoon care program. The Tuesday-Thursday program is geared toward the younger preschool child while the Monday-Wednesday-Friday program is geared toward the older preschool child.
Play, creativity, and hands-on exploration are core components of the school’s balanced curriculum. The planned and structured free-flowing learning environment is geared to a preschooler’s educational needs and methods of learning, which is active not passive. Young children need to move about, experiment, explore, and touch rather than to sit, be lectured to, and do worksheets.
On a typical day the children spend the first part of the morning choosing how they wish to play, both inside and outside. Indoor options include art, a cut and color table, easel painting, puzzles, manipulatives, table games, science, cooking, play dough, music, books, animals, dramatic play, blocks, story writing, and cornmeal or water play. Outdoor play includes obstacles courses, sand and water play, and creative movement in addition to all the outdoor play equipment described earlier. More structured activities center around snack time and circle time and activities include singing, stories, finger plays, flannel boards, games, body movement, dancing, and sharing.  
The curriculum topic changes weekly and the whole school reflects the theme for that week. For example the first week of school is butterfly week. This means that the books in the reading corner are about butterflies, the dress-up rack is filled with butterfly wings, puzzles and art are butterfly-themed, and circle time focuses on stories and songs about butterflies.  
The school is a parent participation co-op. Parents are partners with the school and are responsible for maintaining the school, contributing to its curriculum, and establishing organizational policy. Parents must have a high level of commitment to the school and its purpose because they will play a very active role in fundraising and caring for the school. But as one parent said, “When I am out mowing the school’s lawn, I think about how much my kids love this school, and I think, this is so worth it.”

Parents are also very involved in the classroom. Because of the school’s philosophy that the parent is the first and best teacher, parent participation is required throughout the school year. Parents work a full day in the classroom once or twice a month, assisting teachers throughout the day in watching over the children, helping with the curricular activities, providing snacks, and cleaning the building. Another parent shared, “As a working parent, I wondered if I could do the work necessary, but after looking at other options, I knew TNS was the only preschool I wanted.”
Just a few weeks ago, the director and head teacher braved 100-degree weather and semi-trucks, to search down the milkweed plant on a busy highway. Why? To find caterpillars for the butterfly unit. This kind of dedication is routine with the long-time staff. Director Julie Johnson has been with the school for over 29 years, head teacher Diana Endsley 8 years, and afternoon teacher Mary Dalton 12 years. 
According to parent Kristen Santos, “The teachers embrace the children here at TNS. Three of my children have gone through this preschool, and each one has been loved by the teachers and taught invaluable lessons about responsibility and creativity.”
Turlock Nursery School will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year.  That is a forty-year history of offering children in Turlock a unique place to learn. Below are some of the upcoming scheduled events:
Open House ~ Sunday, October 2, 2pm – 4:30pm
   415 Grant Street, Turlock, CA 95382
   If you are interested in learning more about Turlock
School, please bring your children by to
   meet our wonderful teachers.
We will also have alumni and board members
   available to answer
questions and give tours. 
• TNS Yard Sale ~ Saturday, October 8, 7am – 12pm
   2563 Myers Way, Turlock
   This TNS fundraiser will include items donated by over
   35 families, with an emphasis on children’s items.
   All clothing items are 50¢.
• Cool Hand Luke’s Take-Out Dinner fundraiser ~ November 3, 4pm – 7pm