Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning, but for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
- Fred Rogers
About Our Preschool
We are a cooperative of families and students who encourage building community through relationships and learning together. Self-esteem and social skills are learned through play and exploration in an environment of acceptance, inclusion, and fun. We believe in the collective to develop our children and ourselves- knowing that contributing our time in the classroom and parent education meetings will foster an environment of growth.
Whatcom Family Co-op Preschool is a unique, inclusion program that integrates with the Bellingham School District Special Education Program.
Whatcom Family Co-op Preschool is also one of four cooperative preschools that operates in collaboration with the parenting education program at Whatcom Community College. Find out more about this connection here.
Social Emotional Growth
Whatcom Family Co-Op Preschool is a local nonprofit. Our curriculum is developmentally appropriate to support young children’s learning. Based on seasonal themes where children actively explore our different learning centers. We value learning through play; active involvement with their environment helps children learn to make sense of the world around them. Our role is to create a community within our classroom that invites children to observe, to be active, to make choices, and to experiment.
Whatcom Family Co-Op is one of four cooperative preschools under the larger umbrella of Whatcom Community College. The parents serve as administrators and staff of the school. Our teacher plans the curriculum and guide the parents working in the classroom. A facilitator is provided by Whatcom Community College who offers support for families, trains new board members, and leads the parent education program.
Responsibilities of Co-Op Parents:
Each family will participate in the following: volunteering in the classroom, maintain a parent job, participate in monthly Parent Education meetings, and participate in fundraising efforts.
Volunteering in the classroom allows us to run the classroom smoothly and keep costs low. We must maintain a 1:5 ratio of adults to students in the classroom and if this is not fulfilled, we are unable to have class. Typical classes size for our preschool and pre-k class are 15 students, our teacher, and 2 parent assistance. We all work together to make sure that this doesn’t happen! Our schedulers ensure that the classroom shifts are organized and fulfilled, and that any holes that would interrupt school are communicated to the board and addressed. Each family must complete a volunteer application through the Bellingham School District to be active in the classroom, and these are valid for two school years upon completion. We also offer new parent orientation to answer questions about classroom protocol and work.
If you or your child’s other immediate caregivers are unable to participate in the classroom, you may have another loved one represent your family. This gives flexibility to working families. We have had grandparents, family friends, and nannies or childcare workers in the classroom before to represent families. We understand that life is busy and that we ask a time commitment, but we do take this role as a cooperative seriously and offer accommodations to make it work for you!
We would ideally like parents to have jobs that they feel competent and secure in. If you have ideas about what job you’d like to do, ask! As a board, we also ask for help and are often able to fulfill jobs with our own need for support.
We could not be a cooperative school without the families’ participation, and your interest and commitment fulfills a need in all of our children’s education.
The monthly Parent Education meetings are part of our affiliation with Whatcom Community College. Click here to find out more about this.
Families should also expect to participate in fundraisers throughout the year. Fundraisers differ each year but families should aim to raise about $200 per student they have enrolled. We do also offer the option for families to make a one time tax deductible donation instead, equal to their family's fundraising goal.
Hello! I'm Allie, the lead teacher for both of the classes at the Whatcom Family Coop.
I have always loved working with children and families, and have spent the last 20 years teaching and learning in all sorts of places: a children's museum, parent cooperatives, an international school, school gardens, private preschools, and more. I studied Early Childhood Education at New York University for my undergraduate degree, and then Child Development for my Master's Degree at the Erikson Institute. I am a teacher trainer, and have travelled around the world to teach workshops on play-based learning for other early childhood educators. I started a project called Play Lab when I moved to Bellingham in 2012: I partner with local organizations to offer free pop-up play and other events and programs for children and their families. I am passionate about Early Childhood and consider myself a teacher-researcher: I am always learning from and with the children and families whom I have the privilege of spending my time with.
I grew up on an apple farm in Connecticut, and lived in New York, Seattle, Brussels, and Astoria, Oregon before landing in, and falling in love with Bellingham. When I'm not thinking about Early Childhood Education, I'm probably sewing, hiking, swimming, reading, playing the violin, walking my dog, or cooking.
Learning Through Play
Led by our experienced teacher, children are encouraged to make their own discoveries in many different interest areas, including art, science, drama, and construction. Through structured and unstructured activities in both large and small groups, children have countless opportunities to develop social-emotional skills and fine-tune the skills necessary for future success in reading, writing, and mathematics.
Often included in the day free play, circle time, and a snack. Weather permitting outside play is also incorporated as much as possible.
Parents are also welcome to share age appropriate talents or hobbies in the classroom. Some examples of parent supported activities are: gardening, music, special crafts, and many more.
Member of the Organization of Parenting Education Programs in Washington State (OPEP)
Whatcom Community College (WCC) is affiliated with four low-cost cooperative preschools across Whatcom County. Based on the belief that parents are the first and most important teachers of their children, cooperative preschools offer an educational experience for both children and parents. Children attend preschool 2 – 4 days per week, for 2 – 4 hours per class session. WCC affiliated preschools are hands-on, play-based, and experiential, adhering to research based, developmentally appropriate practices for growing minds and bodies! Parents also work in the classroom, take on a school job, assist with fundraising and attend monthly parenting education sessions. At all WCC affiliated cooperative preschool programs, parents and children learn together!
As part of the cooperative preschool experience, Whatcom Community College offers parenting education classes to meet the changing needs of families. Parents/caregivers are enrolled in a WCC Parenting Education class when they enroll their child in preschool.
Parents/students earn 9.0 college credits per year, earning a short-term certificate of proficiency in parenting education after 18 credits (2 years of preschool enrollment). To earn credit, parents attend monthly parenting education classes taught by WCC Parenting Education Faculty, in addition to fulfilling their preschool responsibilities. Classes are typically held in the evening, in conjunction with the monthly business meeting for the preschool. Class format includes lectures, videos, discussion groups, and guest speakers on topics such as:
• Developmental milestones
• Children’s social and emotional development
• Sibling rivalry
• Family communication
• Early learning, literacy, and school readiness
• Contemporary Issues in parenting
• Community resources
Parenting Educators also support parents working in the classroom and work closely with the preschool teacher regarding the educational programs and needs of individual students. Supporting the preschool board in the management and operation of the preschool non-profit business and providing leadership training, instruction, and feedback regarding preschool operations are other essential functions of the WCC Parenting Educators.
This connections also allows you the benefits of being a Whatcom Community College student; things such as access to the Student Technology Center, gym membership, and more.
Learn More about WCC Parent Education
Whatcom Community College complies with federal and state laws specifically requiring that the College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, genetic information or age in its programs and activities.