Why I Love Teaching the Project Approach

I love the project approach because it enables our students to go in-depth with their learning. Preschoolers love to investigate and explore the world around them, and project work takes them on an intellectual adventure in which they can initiate, investigate, and follow through on their questions and interests. This level of investigation results in more meaningful learning and increased engagement from our students. They become “experts” on their project topic and are proud to share what they have learned. Our project culminations display the breadth and depth of their investigations.

But I also love the project approach because it covers all areas of the curriculum in an engaging way. It allows us to teach the necessary academic skills while also achieving more complex intellectual goals (such as formulating questions, problem-solving, cooperation, making predictions, and speculating about cause and effect). Academic tasks such as early literacy skills, letter recognition, counting, color and shape recognition, writing, etc., are all achieved through the active student participation in the project approach—without any boring, repetitive worksheets! In fact, because the children are curious, absorbed, and interested in a project topic, they more eagerly approach academic goals that might be met with resistance if offered in a discrete, decontextualized manner.

During the early stages of our box project, for example, we offered graph paper and helped students practice drawing “boxes.” This required excellent pre-writing practice including proper pencil grip, making straight lines, and drawing the right angles required by many letter-formations. But I can guarantee that the students were more excited about “drawing boxes” than they would have been about rote letter-writing practice!

Students also used early math skills in purposeful ways. We measured boxes for our grocery store. This included counting with one-to-one correspondence and recording numbers and results. We also used early math skills for box-nesting activities, comparing different size boxes, and graphing the results of various box-related surveys.

Even more important than these early academic tasks, however, were the intellectual goals we achieve during the project. During our box packing and egg-drop experiment, for example, we practiced scientific inquiry. We asked a question (will the egg survive the drop?), predicted an outcome (yes or no?), tested theories with an experiment (packed and dropped the boxes full of eggs), analyzed the results (opened the packages), and reported the outcome (on a graph).

During our box boating/voting activity, the children had to work together to move their team across a large room (the “ocean”) in a big box (the “boat”) in order to cast their vote in a ballot box. They had to negotiate who would ride and who would push, how many could ride at a time, how many were needed to push effectively, and how to take turns to get everyone across the room. The children were also required to work together to effectively choose and pack a box of containers during one of our field experiences. This involved cooperation and trial-and-error.

Projects engage students, allow them to become experts, and accomplish curricular objectives — all while simultaneously achieving higher-level intellectual goals. At the end of a project, students have been challenged by and engaged in the topic, have increased confidence in their own knowledge, have solved problems, have learned from asking and answering questions, have developed their early literacy and numeracy skills in purposeful ways, and have worked cooperatively with their peers.

We announce our new project today!

In anticipation,

Teacher Molly




Family Preschool is Among 100 Certified Living Wage Employers in Durham

Family Preschool is committed to offering one of the best preschool educations in Durham. As part of that goal, we hire only the very best preschool teachers to be part of our family. We hire teachers who are experienced, who have extensive training in the educational philosophies that we embrace, and who are as committed as we are to our children and their development. And because we want only the best teachers, we are committed to giving them the best, as well. That means paying them a salary that shows our commitment and our understanding of the important work that they do.


Recently, Family Preschool was recognized as one of only 100 Durham employers that have been certified as providing a living wage for their employees. The Durham Living Wage Project provided the recognition, which was given to businesses that pay their employees at least 70 percent more than the federal and state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That means that these businesses pay all their employees at least $12.53 per hour if they do not provide health insurance. Those businesses that do provide health insurance and pay at least 50 percent of the cost can be certified under the Durham Living Wage Project if they pay all employees at least $11.03 per hour.

Family Preschoolactually pays our teachers well above the guidelines established by the Durham Living Wage Project, which was launched in March 2015 as an initiative of the People's Alliance Fund to promote a just economy. We believe that quality pay attracts quality teachers, and that is reflected in the cost of an education at Family Preschool.

At Family Preschool, your children don't just play. They learn through play. In fact, they do their most important work through, learning academic concepts like colors and spatial relationships, honing their gross and fine motor skills, developing their social skills, and strengthening their emotional intelligence. Our teachers guide children in this important work and give them the opportunities and skills to grow.

Plus, just like our parents and our children, our teachers are part of our school family, and we want to treat them as such. Teachers do such important work. We feel that if all teachers were paid as well as they deserved, our children would all be thriving.

You can see the full list of Durham Living Wage Project certified employers here. Note that Family Preschool is the only secular, half-day preschool on the list.