BSSCC facilitates feelings of comfort

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Located in the Baldwin School in Chestnut Hill, the modest building shared with Winthrop House sits slightly pushed back off of the road, surrounded by two playground sets and approximately 1.5 acres of park space. Here you will find seven infants, nine toddlers and 18 preschoolers playing in the Brookline Schools Staff Children’s Center (BSSCC).

Through thoughtful and engaging projects and activities, teachers create an environment where constructive play can occur so that students are able to have fun and learn important skills.

In the infant room, a sensory table filled with rice and various containers allows students to get a sense of quantity and volume and learn social skills such as taking turns and communicating.

“It’s not like they are teaching my kid algebra,” said English teacher Peter Sedlak, whose almost two-year-old daughter, Sabina, attends BSSCC. “What my daughter learns is learning through play. She can do her ABCs now, but it is mostly through singing that bloody song. And she can count, but it’s taught through exploration. That’s how we all learn, anyways.”

Started in 1979 by a group of parents who taught in the Brookline Public Schools, BSSCC has changed location and teachers but continues to uphold the same values and mission that the school was originally built on.

According to math teacher Shoshana Kostant, the philosophy of BSSCC is very similar to the high school’s philosophy of allowing children to explore and discover rather than using direct teaching. BSSCC, according to Kostant, provides a collaborative environment in which children develop cognitive, social and emotional capacity through structured play and social learning.

“Most people don’t think of day care as a school, but we do,” said Kostant. “Learning starts at infancy. You need to be an educator to really be able to think about how kids take in information, learn language, numbers, quantities, colors and about the world and touching. And they do.”

The limited spots are offered first to Brookline faculty and then to residents of Brookline. Although tuition-run and privately directed by Jane Pinto, BSSCC operates parallel to the public schools’ calendar, opening at 7:15 a.m. and closing at 4:30 p.m. The school is also closed during school vacations and on holidays in order to fit a teacher’s schedule.

“I look at it as a benefit. It is affiliated with the Brookline schools and it is nice to have a greater connection with who looks after my kid,” said Sedlak. “Financially, it’s not a perk, but it is one of those ‘you get what you pay for.’ We are paying a lot for day care tuition, but the care that my child gets is with no comparison.”

Kostant thinks the program provides an added level of convenience because of its location.

“It’s nice that Brookline faculty have someplace to go, especially since a lot of Brookline teachers don’t live in Brookline,” said Kostant. “Let’s say you hear from the day care that your little child is sick and you have an hour and a half commute before you can actually get to them. It’s nice to have them nearby.”

Kostant’s eldest daughter, now 10 years old, attended BSSCC. Kostant now has a daughter in the preschool room.

“We joke around that the reason I had a second was so that we could go back,” said Kostant. “I noticed that my older daughter, when she came out of there, was able to make really strong friendships and keep them. She is really good with people and she’s confident in her abilities. I think all of that is created in the atmosphere that is there.”

The BSSCC also embodies a co-op system where parents help with running of the center as a whole.

“Parents really contribute to the program in tangible and intangible ways and that’s different compared to other early childhood centers,” said Pinto.

Parents on committees, such as the teacher hiring committee or student application committee, spend two Saturdays a year fixing up rooms by painting, cleaning and moving around furniture and fundraise in order to buy supplies.

“We have to put in some extra time, but it’s creating a relationship. The better we know them, the better we work together, the better care we are getting,” said Sedlak.

Both the parents and Pinto emphasize the importance of lasting and special connections made between the teachers and the children.

“After the children go to kindergarten, I hear they miss the strong relationships that they get with the teachers here. Children are often here for five years. You are comfortable and you know everyone,” said Pinto. “There is a strong sense of community.”

“We had a nanny for her full first year of life, and I think we get far better care at the town center,” said Sedlak. “They just love your kid. They love my child just a little bit less than I do, only just a little bit. And that’s pretty unique.”

Kerry Grove can be contacted at [email protected]