The Goddard School held its grand opening in Farmington on Saturday, Dec. 7 and is accepting more students.
About 60 kids, some current students, and their parents attended. A face painting artist was there, children enjoyed rides outside in an electronic moose and bear, and kids did many activities from playing with peppermint playdough to making sugar cube igloos.
The Farmington school serves children ages six weeks to six years and is family-owned by Nancy and Kristina Ford, both of Simsbury. Nancy's daughter Marissa Pratt, of Canton, serves as the educational director at the school and two of her children attend, including her infant daughter and preschool-aged son.
The philosophy of education in the Goddard schools utilizes play-based learning techniques and allows the children the freedom to use their full imagination.
"We believe that children learn through their play and hands on experiences," Pratt said.
For instance, the children do "creative art versus product art."
"Creative art is we'll give the students creative materials to explore with and do whatever they'd like to be creative versus product art where you'll see the children are told they are making a snowman today and the eyes go here and and the nose goes here and the buttons go here," Pratt said, though she said "sometimes they'll come home with an activity like that" around the holiday time.
Nancy first learned of The Goddard School programs when her granddaughter attended one in Brookfield when she was six months old and the family had a positive experience there. When the family was looking for early education options for Pratt's children, the Farmington site was available, so they decided to learn more about the business, she said.
All toys are sanitized at stations provided in each classroom after use and almost every classroom has a bathroom inside.
The playgrounds include grassy areas to run around and age-appropriate playscapes on a cushioned ground surface that dries within a half an hour after it rains.
The educators at the school teach the children sign language to communicate, which helps them "tell you their basic needs without getting frustrated," Pratt said. They also introduce Spanish to the children at a young age.
"We have a little boy who does not speak English. Within the first week, he knew five signs, so he was able to communicate with us," Pratt said. "We don't speak Mandarin and he doesn't speak English."
Older children are given classroom chores to learn responsibility and prepare them for kindergarten. During the holiday season, the school has the children share their family traditions to educate the children about multiple religions and customs.
There are also smart boards in the classrooms for the older children so that they are familiar with the technology by the time they reach kindergarten. The children don't watch the screens for more than 20 minutes a day, which is the Academy of Pediatrics' recommended limit for young children.
The Fords have an office at the front of the building near the infant and pre-kindergarten rooms so that they are accessible and available to help out in the infant room if needed.
Nancy Ford and her husband, Chuck also own The Gymnastics Training Center in Simsbury.
The teachers make their own lesson plans that align with both Goddard and state common core standards. Student progress is evaluated at The Goddard School through a standardized test called the Children's Progress Academic Assessment that is "play-based" and "computerized," Nancy Ford said.
For safety purposes, the Farmington school has a lobby area with a locked entrance to the rest of the school. Parents can enter using a biometric hand scanner and appointments are encouraged. People without an appointment are asked to show a license or photo identification. Visitors sign in and out upon visiting the school.
Parents are kept well informed about their children's activities throughout the day, both in a schedule posted outside the classroom and reports sent to them daily and photographs.
"We have an open door policy, so they're welcome to stop in as often as they'd like," Pratt said.
The school is one of a handful of Goddard schools in the state and one of 405 schools in about 39 states. The other Connecticut sites are in Brookfield, Orange, Danbury and Glastonbury. The schools have the support of an education advisory board with educators and people knowledgeable about early childhood development.
The brand has applied to open another site in Avon, but that is not finalized. It would have a different owner.
The school is located at 6 Bridgewater St. in the business plaza across from The Wood N' Tap. More information is available on The Goddard School website.
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