Mamatoga Preschool Series: Spotlight School-The Beagle School

On a beautiful sunny fall morning last week I had the chance to visit The Beagle School just as moms and dads and grandparents were dropping little ones off for the morning program. The class at the main school, located in a sweet little house on Regent Street was just starting and the first thing that struck me was the relaxed atmosphere of the drop off. Parents came in and out unhurried and as their kids shook coats off they chatted for a minute before heading out, leaving the kids to start off the day however they chose. Most of them congregated around the fall themed area complete with a little farmers' market which was bustling with toddlers making purchases of wooden fruits and vegetables. All areas of the room were occupied with busy children, one of the teachers explained that they like to have a smooth transition for the morning since parents often have other kids to get onto the school bus or drop off at elementary school and kids get to choose what activity they want to start off with. The relaxed pace really appealed to me and seemed to set a calm and comfortable tone for the classroom.

Talking with the friendly, open teachers I learned a lot about the school, which was originally chartered in 1972 by the New York State Board of Regents. Originally started with eight families looking for a more flexible education the school started with thirteen students, and the enrollment has now grown to include 100 students. The Beagle School is dedicated to exploration, discovery, and the sense of wonder that belonged to Charles Darwin and his ship, the HMS Beagle. Teachers at the Beagle School strive to support children in all areas of development and place a particular emphasis on independence, self-motivation, responsibility and creativity.

The school's philosophy encourages learning through songs, literature, movement, experimentation, and art activities. At Beagle they believe that during the preschool ages it's important to encourage hands-on learning, and that if children are rushed into academics too soon, and are told what to learn and memorize, they become dependent learners instead of independent learners. As a result many children lose their enthusiasm for learning. The goal at Beagle is to teach the whole child-heart, hands, and mind. They use a theme based curriculum with themes lasting anywhere from two to six weeks depending on the subject and the interest shown by the children. For their daily schedule, the teachers strive for a combination of free play, choices (more teacher directed), language and literacy, and outdoor play with adult and peer interaction emphasized. The schedule is flexible to accommodate the needs and interests of the children, and choices are arranged so that the children can develop motor skills while continuing to have opportunities to socialize. The student/teacher ratio is 7:1, and morning classes meet from 9am to noon with the afternoon classes meeting from 12:40 to 3:40pm. Children who are 3 years old on or before December 1st are eligible for the Tuesday/Thursday morning or afternoon classes. Children who are 4 years old on or before December 1st are eligible for for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday morning or afternoon classes.

In terms of discipline, at Beagle they believe in trying to deflect any problem children may be exhibiting before a conflict ensues. Redirecting a child or separating children who are being rambunctious works the majority of the time.

They also have one of the sweetest, most welcoming two year old classrooms I have ever been in located on Circular Street. The bright, airy space has just the perfect amount of room and any parent would feel more than comfortable dropping their little one off to learn in this well appointed classroom. The class size for the two year old program is ten students with a teacher and an assistant, and classes meet two days a week from 9:30 to 11:30 (Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday). Children are encouraged to share and discover through group play, art, activities, poems, and stories, and the emphasis of the two year old program is on a warm and cheerful introduction to the preschool experience.

Also keep in mind that Beagle has a fantastic summer program as well that runs for ten consecutive weeks beginning at the end of June. Parents can register their children for two, three or five mornings a week per week in any combination of weeks and the age range is from 2 1/2 to 5 years of age.

Applications for the school are available beginning February 1st for the following September and a visit to the school prior to submitting an application is encouraged and can be set up through the office. We will be posting information about the dates and times of their open houses here at Mamatoga, and you can also contact the school at (518) 587-7507 or info@beagleschool.com.

We received such a great response from parents at the school, and here are just some of the fantastic things that Beagle parents wanted to share with Mamatoga readers about their experience at the school:

"The Beagle School has been a wonderful place for our family. I have one child who has been through the program, one who is currently in it and one that will be coming up through. The teachers are kind and caring and the school provides a rich foundation for kids to learn and grow. We love Beagle School and wouldn't go anywhere else!"

"We could not be happier with the school and the kind, loving attitude that the teachers have for their students, as well as the high expectations that are held for each and every child. Field trips are curriculum based, the classroom is a warm and wonderful place for children to explore and the Beagle School playground is top-notch. We highly recommend this program to anyone looking for a preschool. We will miss it when my son goes off to kindergarten next fall!"

The Beagle School is located at 115 Regent Street, Saratoga Springs