Program Overview

Saint Mary’s Nursery School is a non-profit cooperative early years education center, founded in 1964. We provide day care for children from 18 months to 5 years.  We also have after school and summer programing for children in Kindergarten through fifth grade. While we share the  centrally located Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church building, we are not associated with the Church. We are a separate entity, and non-denominational.

Our educational curriculum is carefully planned to be developmentally appropriate and based on play, creativity and the arts with an emphasis on the social-emotional health and development of each child. Family and community involvement through our co-op program and parent work days foster a caring, trusting, healthy environment for our children. A combination of mixed-age experiences and same age-group experiences create environments that allow children to relax and open up to all aspects of learning.

children decorate and build with cardboard boxes

Creative play on the playground

A Reggio Emilia Inspired Curriculum

SMNS is a Reggio Emilia inspired school. At the core of our approach to Reggio Emilia teaching is a dedication to building relationships and learning to listen and respond to one another. Our teaching philosophy is designed to meet each child’s individual needs. The arts and family involvement are central and the themes and concepts that we communicate to our students are supported and documented through their creative products. Art projects, construction projects, and theater performances, are individually catalogued, photographed and otherwise recorded to follow and document each child’s development. We align our curriculum and lesson plans to the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards.

Daily Schedule

At SMNS we value the experience that children have in mixed age groups. We also value the learning that can take place in smaller groups with teachers who provide activities and interactions tailored to groups of children at a similar developmental stage and age in their lives.

7:30 am-9:00 am During early arrival children from all preschool groups play together.
9:00 am-3:00 pm Children are grouped by age. We have 2 toddler classes, 2 preschool classes, and 1 pre-k class. Each group has free play time, snack, lunch, centers, group meetings, and time outside. We also work hard to visit the library once a week with each group, take neighborhood walks around our building and on the surrounding campus area as well.
3:00 pm-6:00 pm During after hours groups will transition to the playground for mixed age play time.

toddler field trip

Older toddlers watch cars from a bridge during a walk around campus

Field Trips

School trips are an important part of the SMNS experience, expanding our learning beyond the walls of our classroom. Children three years old and older will visit the Philadelphia Free Library located at 40th and Walnut Streets, the Annenberg Center for child-friendly performances and walking expeditions throughout the University of Pennsylvania campus. Families are welcome and strongly encouraged to join us on all of our trips away from the school facility.

Staff / Child Ratios

At SMNS the staff to student ratio is dependent on the age of the children in a group. In the nap room, during nap time alone, the required ratio drops to 1 teacher for every 10 students (1:10). When children are grouped in mixed age levels, we use the ratio required for the youngest child in the room. Below are the DHS required ratios. We aim to operate at higher ratios as often as possible. Volunteers, Work Study Students and Parent Helpers count towards the Teacher/Child Ratio.

Mixed Age Level No. of Staff No. of Children
Young Toddler 1 5
Older Toddler 1 6
Preschool & Pre-K 1 10
Older Toddler / Preschool 1 6

Additional program materials