Issaquah Cooperative Preschool turns 50
April 17, 2012
By Amanda Austin
Issaquah mother Dana Macario admits she was initially concerned when Tent City 4 took up residency in the parking lot of the community church where her children attend preschool.
Instead of chasing transients out of the facility, however, the parents of the Issaquah Cooperative Preschool combined their efforts to provide a dinner for the Tent City 4 occupants in January.
Many parents brought their children with them on that cold, winter evening to help deliver the food. Macario said it turned out to be a great experience.
“Seeing both parents and children working together to help those in need was such a great example for the kids,” she said. “It felt good knowing that our little group, in our own small way, was doing something to help others.”
Cooperative-style schools require the time, effort and, well, cooperation of the parents of each participating child to foster a play-based learning environment. Each parent is required to work in the classroom two to three times per month, hold another job or board position for the school, and attend a monthly parent meeting.
What to know
Issaquah Cooperative Preschool open house
While cooperative education methods first showed up in the United States somewhere around the dawn of the 20th century, the Issaquah Cooperative Preschool took shape in 1962 — meaning the popular community establishment will celebrate its 50th birthday this year.
At its humblest beginnings, the co-op convened in a portable classroom owned by the Issaquah School District, according to Marie Frauenheim, who has been working with the co-op since 1993 as a parent educator. She is currently the parent education instructor for the 4- and 5-year-olds’ class.
Parents whose children attended the school sought a more permanent space for the social and intellectual classroom environment they wanted for their preschoolers. In 1986, the co-op moved to the Community Baptist Church — now called the Community Church of Issaquah — where it remains today.
Why go cooperative?
“A co-op can tap the resources of many talented parent-adults,” Frauenheim said.
Macario echoed that opinion: “Every parent has unique talents, abilities and ideas to offer the children, and I think that is a tremendous benefit.”
The play-based learning philosophy was also a huge selling point for Macario, but it was the sense of community and extra involvement that ultimately won her over. She explained that a co-op isn’t for everyone, because it does demand more commitment from parents. In the end, though, the friendly, communal nature of it all makes it worth it.
The parent participation component of the co-op sets it apart from traditional preschools, Frauenheim said.
“This provides a unique opportunity for them to observe their child’s interactions and growth,” she added.
“By being a part of a co-op,” Macario said, “I’d have a better sense of what my daughter was experiencing at preschool.”
Macario said her favorite part of working at the school is the snack room, because she enjoys observing the friendly interactions between the children.
“I love hearing the different conversations they have and getting glimpses into everyone’s personalities,” she said.
It’s an opportunity to learn about your child’s social behavior that you wouldn’t have if he or she were enrolled in a traditional drop-off preschool, Macario said.
Amanda Austin is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.