Stretch the Imagination is an early childhood education school started by Michele Lawton 10 years ago in San Francisco. They added a location in Corte Madera at the Market Place on Tamal Vista Boulevard 2 ½ years ago (near Book Passage). Children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old attend classes which facilitate learning in a creative and play-based environment.
When I stopped by to talk with some of the preschoolers I entered a modern, delightfully bright and noticeably clean and green environment. Stretch the Imagination has been green from the beginning and has partnered with like-minded organizations such as EcoMom Alliance to further their efforts and commitment.
Children were focused on their projects and were eager to talk with me. They were at different tables painting, writing, creating with play dough, and on the play floor. I sat down with Shea and Linea, both 4, as they were exploring what happens when paint colors combine, forming brown. Linea’s paper was covered in paint and Shea’s had colorful circles.
As we moved to the play floor, with a smile on her face and an abalone shell in her hand, Shea told me, “…I love abalone shells…my dad goes abalone diving in the ocean then brings it back and we cook it and we eat it for dinner…it tastes like chicken…I’m not kidding…” As she put the shell up to her ear, she told me, “I hear the ocean…you hear!” Then she gave the shell to me to listen. As she put a different shell up to her ear, she said, “Oh, I love the ocean…do you think the ocean’s down there? (as she pointed inside the shell) …maybe it’s in the shell, water’s in the shell…I think there’s a slide down there or something…I just can’t stop listening to shells…”
Maddie, 4 ½, was eager to show me her self portraits. She took me to a wall filled with photographs of all the children with their self drawn portraits below. It was fun to see the progressions of portraits drawn in the beginning of the year and the more recent ones. Maddie’s more recent portrait had even more freckles than her first one.
Maggie, 4, was looking through a small red tinted transparent sheet and enjoyed seeing her world all in red. Gaby, 4, was having fun rolling play dough into lots of similar sized balls, using her hands to make them rounder and rounder.
When I asked Pam Harris, the school’s Director, why she loved working with children, she told me, “They (children) are the most present beings I know…they are full of theories and I learn so much from them everyday…I love collaborating with them in order to deepen their learning process, their understanding, and all the while they are deepening my understanding about, not only early childhood education, but life…”
The children at Stretch the Imagination were having fun exploring their environment and enjoyed sharing their discoveries with me. I could see they were having another fun filled, play based learning day.
Until next Wednesday, remember, it’s all “for the love of kids…”
In joy, Marilyn
To learn more about Stretch the Imagination early childhood education school, you are welcome to visit their website: Stretch the Imagination