The Westport-Weston Cooperative Nursery School was founded in 1955 by a group of eight families determined to provide a strong supportive environment for the early education of their children. The term “Cooperative” was used to literally describe the school community, with parents working both to create and sustain the school and in the classroom, and the school committed to educating parents.
The school took root in the years to follow and was one of the first nursery schools recognized by the Connecticut Department of Education.
In 1960, under the direction of Margaret Sloan, the school left its first home, a farmhouse on Cross Highway, and moved into its present location at the Westport Unitarian Church. In this setting, the Co-op community enjoys the advantages of spacious classrooms and an outdoor environment that encourages exploration of nature.
In 1963, Patricia Nebel, who had been a teacher at the Co-op, became Director, a position she cherished for over 30 years. Pat had been educated in her native England and received a graduate degree in Early Childhood Education at Bank Street College in New York. Under Pat’s direction, the Co-op acquired a philosophy that strongly embraced Bank Street’s Developmental Approach to educating young children. This approach views the emotional, social, physical, and cognitive growth of each child as individual. Through play, children and teachers apply the educational process by connecting teaching and learning meaningfully to the outside world. The Co-op is dedicated to the premise that encouraging an intellectual curiosity that views the world as a laboratory keeps one a life-long learner.
By the mid-seventies, the Co-op was hiring trained early childhood educators to teach at the school. With parents no longer required to participate in the classrooms, the Co-op board voted in 1972 to change the name of the school to “The Westport Nursery School.” Though legal documents made this change official, members of the community continued to refer to the school as “The Co-op.” To avoid further confusion about the school’s identity, the Board voted in 1974 to change the name of the school back to “The Westport-Weston Cooperative Nursery School.” The Board explained that parent participation in the classrooms was only one element of a cooperative, and it determined that the school should be considered a “cooperative” because it is a non-profit organization owned and administered by the parents whose children are enrolled in the school.
The Co-op has always kept a close ear to the needs and interests of the community, and a strong sense of the school as a cooperative holds true today. The school is administered by a Board of Directors, which consists of elected parent members who manage the school’s finances and fundraising efforts. Parent involvement is welcomed and parental education and support continue to be an important part of the Co-op experience. Many social events are planned throughout the year to help the school meet its mission of strengthening not just the individual, but the community as well.
We welcome you to join the Co-op community and experience a pre-school that is rich in history and dedicated to the quality care and education of young children.