Our child responsive philosophy guides our work.
We begin with the child.

The children carry a sense of wonder with them into the classroom each day. Our role as educators is to listen to their ideas, embrace their curiosities, and respond to the collective passions of the preschool community.

Hollingworth Preschool unequivocally believes the early education experiences of young children lay a foundation for future schooling and life. With our exclusive focus on this critical period of development, we embrace the unique profiles and talents of our young students. Hollingworth intentionally fosters independent, self-aware, curious, and lifelong learners.

Our work is guided by these tenents:

Woven throughout our everyday work, our respect for young children positions all children as confident and capable.

This respect for children guides our approach, as we work from the children’s knowledge, interests and needs to explore topics as a community of learners.

Intentionality is the enactment of respect and at the core of our work -- from our conceptual planning to our daily conversations with the children. With every decision and action we make as educators we create avenues of possibilities for the children.

Song is the thread that weaves our community together and frames our days in joy.

Music and song serve a variety of purposes within our classroom community-- we sing transitions, we sing information, we sing when we are happy, and we sing to relax. Singing in our community is another form of communication and we have a song for everything!

The world of young children remarkably expands as they welcome enriching differences with joy. As educators we honor and grow this disposition each day in the classroom.

Hollingworth Preschool is passionately committed to creating a diverse community of children and loved ones. In this space, uniqueness is essential and honored. We embrace the richness of each child’s heritage, language, race, traditions, and family constellation. Likewise, we acknowledge the commonalities shared by each loved one who chose the Hollingworth community.  As we celebrate what it means to be an inclusive school, we collectively weave a remarkable and unique tapestry.

When we employ appreciation, we practice being mindful of the world around us, and of our own position within it. When we share our appreciation, we spread kindness and gratitude. The ripples of this kindness spread far and wide. 

It begins with saying thank you, and recognizing the spread of warmth within a community when we pause to consciously appreciate the actions, both large & small, of the people around us. From baking a meal for our loved ones at harvest time, to baking cookies or making posies for the many people and offices at Teachers College who support our work, we believe the practice of gratitude lays the foundation for a sense of self in the world and the joy of bonds  within a community.

We believe that all children have passions, all children have potential, and all children have areas of growth.

Our curriculum is designed to support growth in all areas of development, not only cognitively, but socially, emotionally, and kinesthetically as well. We nurture not only the young reader, scientist, writer, problem-solver, but also the young person with emotional, physical, and social needs. By seeing the whole learner within each child, we can provide personalized support that meets their needs, while still encouraging their strengths. 

Hollingworth Preschool’s pedagogy is rooted in a growth mindset, as described by Professor Carol Dweck. It is essential that our children believe in their own ability to grow and achieve. Both inside and outside of the classroom, while we gather information and skills, we are also learning how to learn. Through one-on-one support and group conversations, we aim to instill a growth mindset within our children and inspire them to see themselves as capable, lifelong learners.

It is our belief that we must strive to do better for our children through our everyday actions, and we must teach our children to not only cherish their world, but empower our young ones to become active contributors, cultivators, and protectors of our world.

Conservation is a part of our conversation when we engage in scientific, artistic, and cultural studies. Every fall, our PM class begins the year with a focus on migration. Migration studies enable us to focus on conservation and how the individual and collective efforts of passionate activists can make a difference in the world. The children learn of the challenges various species face—changes in environment, loss of habitat, pollution, climate change, over-hunting and more—balanced with the recognition and celebration of the efforts and successes of conservation groups. 

At this very early age, children learn that every life matters and the work of every individual on this earth matters. These are important lessons we hope will guide the children as they move onward and upward in their individual life journeys, becoming mindful, empathetic, contributing members of a more just society.

We introduce natural materials into play every day and intentionally create a classroom environment filled with plants, sunlight, and natural textures such as wood, woven fibers, and stone. We encourage our community to engage in nature play because we believe it gives children first hand experience with nature, something that should be valued and preserved. Nature play is important because it sets the stages for early scientific inquiry and aesthetics while giving each individual a sense that there is something greater than themselves and a connectedness to life and wonder.

Sustainability is a central theme woven into every aspect of our program. From composting and recycling as everyday acts in the classroom--to our choices in paper goods, using only compostable utensils, paperwear, we are actively creating a culture of sustainability awareness and stewardship.

Food awareness is important to our program as well. We encourage our children to think about the food we enjoy, where it comes from, and how it came to our classroom. This is enacted through trips to our local green market for the fruits and vegetables we enjoy during snack, as well as several trips we take to purchase food for our Thanksgathering. During these trips we meet the farmers who cultivate and harvest our food, we learn about the diversity of food, and we become more aware of the people and processes that make food available to us. This farm-to-table sensibility is supported inside the classroom with conversations about food, inquiries into the science of growing crops, and of course, books and song.

The green market also connects to our sustainable practices. As we collect and drop off our compost at the market, we learn about the cycle of food and waste, and discuss how sustainable habits can have a long-lasting impact.

We are an intentionally small school.
Our size enables us to provide personalized attention, a sense
of safety, and engaging informal learning experiences.

Our small class model enables us to give personalized attention to each child and create a sense of safety and reliability. From the process of admission, to the day they move onward and upward, our children interact with the same adults. The teachers, classmates, and Hollingworth office staff that support our children throughout their time with us are able to more fully experience their growth and support the needs of the children and their loved ones. In return, the children build deep relationships with their teachers and each other. When we foster this sense of community, we teach our children to feel a sense of ownership, pride, and responsibility for the community and classroom.

Heath the Hollingworth Dragon

Heath Window

Heath the Hollingworth Dragon is our beloved mascot. Our gentle dragon lives in our stained-glass window, where he watches over our classroom. Heath plays an important role in our program. We sing songs about Heath, tell stories about him, and our morning class takes turns taking him home (in stuffed animal form) and sharing the next day about their time together.

Our History

Hollingworth Preschool is a program of Columbia University’s Teachers College, one of the world’s foremost schools of education founded in 1887. Our pedagogical practice is grounded in the foundational theories of John Dewey’s notions of experience, Lev Vygotsky’s concepts of challenge and zone of proximal development, and Howard Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences. The scholarship of Professor James Borland, the founding director of the preschool in 1984 informs our practice. This work guides our child responsive design nurturing the unique potential and talents of every child. Dr. Lisa Wright succeeded Professor Borland at the preschool in 1987. She currently serves as the Director of the Hollingworth Center and as a faculty member of the Curriculum & Teaching Department at Teachers College. Teachers College remains at the forefront of re-envisioning the complex field of early childhood education and Hollingworth Preschool is informed by this scholarship. As a small school nestled within an iconic university, we honor pioneering Teachers College luminaries while also leading through innovation. This interconnectedness of theory and practice shapes our stance as we steadfastly nurture the students and families we serve. 

As a model demonstration program, Hollingworth Preschool welcomes educators from around the world and shares its renowned pedagogy at local, national, and international conferences. Our university-based school offers a unique early educational experience for families; an opportunity to be immersed in an exuberant and joyful place where “children grow into the intellectual life around them” (Vygotsky, 1978) and move forward with delightful confidence.


International Association of Lab Schools (IALS)

National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers (NC4) 

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

National Association for Gifted Children

The National Association for Multicultural Education

Teaching Tolerance



We seek professional development experiences that will broaden our collective  curricular horizons and plant seeds with our work with teachers. In the past these experiences have included:

Exploring the Magic and Mystery of Ireland: A Story of Landscape, Forests and People.  Monarch Teacher Network.  Ireland, July 2016.

Integrating Language and Landscape, Art and Culture: Voices from the Land.  Monarch Teacher Network. Teachers College, Columbia University, June 2016 & September 2016.

Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies. Monarch Teacher Network. Teachers College, Columbia University, September 2015.

Project Seasons for Young Learners: Cultivating Joy & Wonder.  Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT, July 2015.

North American Reggio Emilia Alliance Winter Conference, March 2015.

The New Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT, August 2013

Learning through the Arts and Literature: A Collaboration Celebrating Innovation and Inspiration in International Education at The Eric Carle Museum, 2012.

First International Summer School. International Centre Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio Emilia, Italy July 4-17, 2010.

Back to skip to quick links