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Our Philosophy

  • We believe in self-directed, cooperative play. We believe play is fundamental for brain development. This requires children playing with and alongside one another.

  • We believe all children should be respected, heard and seen. This is achieved by developing strong relationships with each child and observing their needs. We teach children the value of listening by listening to them.

  • We believe parents are their child’s first teacher. Teachers and staff partner with parents to support children in their learning process.

  • We believe the child’s space at school should be protected from fear, anxiety and adult-stress. A child should feel safe at school.

  • We believe play is messy, requires space for discovery, risk-taking and compromise, and is filled with opportunities to model problem-solving.

  • We believe in meeting the needs of every child in a developmentally appropriate way - the physically active child, the observer, the reader, the scientist, the artist and mixes in-between. We are not a one-size-fits-all school.



Motivated by intrinsic curiosity, children at ANS are afforded the opportunity for self-directed learning. While multiple activities are offered each day from shaving cream in the sensory bin, dress-up in the Bonus Room, digging in the sand, to finding a quiet spot to look at a book, children are making purposeful choices that satisfy their own desire to learn. Learning through play contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of children. Discovery, risk-taking, independence, and creative thinking are all part of play. At ANS, play is a child’s “work".



At ANS, the staff understands the struggles of parenting. We help parents recognize the needs and capabilities of their child while reminding them that parenting is not about perfection, but instead is about building connection and trust. How people communicate with children is crucial in that process. The ANS staff models language that is based on respect, curiosity and trust and helps each child discover empathy, self-regulation and problem-solving skills. The skills learned by children and parents at ANS stay with families far beyond the preschool years.



ANS was started in 1950 by a group of Caltech parents as a babysitting co-op. It has grown into a cooperative preschool that operates daily for up to 45 children between the ages of two to five years.

Much of the wisdom in our philosophy has been passed down from former Director, Patricia Hedlund. "Miss Pat" has been closely connected to our school for over fifty years; first as a parent, then as a teacher, and for many years as our Director. The knowledge and experience she imparted to the families of ANS, the staff, and to our overall philosophy continue to guide our community.

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