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August 22, 2016 
Vol. 46 No. 9
Cooperatively Speaking
The Latest News from PCPI

Hello Again! 

This month I had the pleasure of getting to know Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School & Kindergarten. As always, I am amazed at how much I learn from and am inspired by the parents and teachers that come together to make each cooperative school a unique reflection of their own community.   

Once a month, Cooperatively Speaking will feature a profile of one of our member schools to highlight those characteristics that make each of our schools distinct as well as those that we share by virtue of being a co-op.   Would you like your school to be featured in a profile?  Please let me know!    

Warmest wishes,

Dianne Rose
Editor, Cooperatively Speaking

PCPI Member School Profile
Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School & Kindergarten
Indianapolis, Indiana

The educational community of Meridian Hills Cooperative Nursery School & Kindergarten was established as a non-profit in 1960 by involved parents who wanted their children to love school and learning.  MHCNS&K is located in the historic Meridian Hills area of Indianapolis in the same space within First Congregational Church  that they've occupied since their start.
MHCNS&K has been around for more than 50 years, and as a result the school has seen multiple generations of families pass through their doors.  In fact, Mrs. Foley, the school's assistant director and teacher of the 3- and 4-year-old classes, used to be a student at the co-op back when the school was still new.

As part of their 50th anniversary celebration in 2010, former teacher and director Shari Robinson chronicled the history and development of the school.  The narrative, shared on the school website, is filled with rich stories of the many people who have influenced the physical, organizational and programmatic changes that have happened over the years and which have made MHCNS&K what it is today.
The class offerings and age groups served by Meridian Hills have evolved over time.  They currently have four classes: 

Finches (2 year olds) which meets one or two mornings each week for 2 ½ hours.


Chickadees ( year olds) which meets two mornings each  week, one day for 2 ½ hours and the second day 
extended to  3 ½ hours to include lunch, story time, and outdoor play.

Robins (4 year olds) which meets three days per week, two  days for 2 ½ hours and  the third   extended to 4 hours to allow time for lunch and field trips.

Kinderbirds (5 year olds) which  m eets three 
days per week for 5 hours each day. 


Meridian Hills Cooperative is one of only two co-op schools in Indiana to offer part-time co-op Kindergarten.  The kindergarten program, which started in fall of 2003, is unique not only because it is cooperative, but also because it's a forest class. An outdoor classroom built in the forest area backing up to the playground allows students to explore and learn in an outdoor setting one day per week, no matter the weather.  

In Kinderbirds, the  children are encouraged to follow their own interests and learn through  active exploration and social interaction, but the class is also guided by Indiana standards and Common Core standards.  The program was inspired by a group of parents of who had come to love and value the co-op model and wanted to find a way to give their kindergarten aged children the opportunity to continue in a developmentally appropriate, child-led, play-based setting.  The idea resonated with many families in the community who were conflicted about jumping into full time kindergarten programs in the area.  Current research on learning and development in young children shows that child-led discovery and play are the two most powerful educational tools available.  While our program has evolved over the past 13 years, at it's core, it remains a place where children and parents come together to learn and play.
School in the Forest
Meridian Hills has always had a strong outdoor component.  A couple of years ago, par ents and the kindergarten teacher wanted to find a way to make nature and the outdoors  a more formal part of the kindergarten curriculum, so they worked together to learn about Forest Kindergarten programs that have been gaining in popularity in Europe and parts of the United States.  They created a classroom space in the woods behind their school and found a way to incorporate it into the weekly schedule.  

The outcome has been such a joy for all; they have found that all of the skills and challenges that children practice in the indoor classroom come out naturally in the forest.  They spend time communicating, observing, wondering, cooperating, problem-solving, risk-taking and peace-making.  There is no end to the different phenomena that nature provides and no better way to understand the passage of time and the cycles of earth than to observe these changes up-close on a week by week basis.  The children are becoming stewards of the earth and fierce lovers of the natural world.  They show increasing confidence and community skills as they work together to face the challenges that come with spending extended time outside in all weather, temperature and conditions.  The class also also has fun sharing freshly baked bread, creating scavenger hunts, learning bird calls, getting muddy, swinging on vines, building lean -tos, avoiding poison ivy and following animal tracks.

Meridian Hills is part of the Indiana Council of Preschool Cooperatives.


Special thanks to Nicole Sipe and Malkah Bird for their generous contributions to this story!

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Parent Cooperative Preschools International (PCPI)