Assistant Director Katie McDonnell and coworker Mary Catherine of the Lansdale Children of America “Educational Childcare and Academy” were on hand to welcome the Chestnut Hill community to the company’s newest location on Saturday June 16th at the site of the former Borders Bookshop at the top of the Hill.
According to its website, “C-O-A” has about 60 sites from the east coast west to Wisconsin and plans for another 30 locations. The Chestnut Hill center, its largest, can accommodate up to two hundred and ninety one children ranging from 6 weeks old up through third grade. WHYY Newsworks.org reports that COA is in the process of seeking accreditation to become a Pennsylvania chartered school for up to 5th grade.
The school’s proprietary curriculum, developed specifically for COA by educational psychologist Vicki Folds and expounded in her books, is based on children doing tasks set up on what look like lunch trays (“traytasking”). The concept is to get children to manipulate things left to right and up to down, the same spatial directions they will use for reading.
Upon noting that a youngster has completed a certain age specific task, such as simultaneously pedaling and steering a tricycle, a childcare worker dates and initials the accomplishment in a checklist file for the child.
A sixteen hundred square foot but windowless playground in the basement has slides, a tree house, green artificial turf and purple rubber tiles for scrape free falls.
Children may go for rides aboard four or six-seat buggies through the hallways or, for some fresh air and a change of scene, along the building’s sidewalks. There is no outdoor playground.
Six-week olds start out in Infant Room A and after mastering sleeping in their cribs will graduate to Rooms B and C to begin sleeping on cots.
Security, which features prominently in the company’s marketing, is highlighted by its “Always Close By” system. A camera or two in every room can be monitored in the office by the director or assistant director. For $19.95 additional a month, (enrollment fees run $1600 a month) parents can view their children in real time remotely through the Internet. Mary Catherine reports that one mother at the Lansdale site will call in and have a talk with her child if she sees that her child is misbehaving.
In one classroom we visited, a menagerie of small plastic animals on a table top is ready for children to manipulate, learn their names and the sounds they make. At COA, dogs go “Woof.”
Walls are adorned with an illustration of the school’s mascot a dog named Bentley with a black circle around one eye who strongly resembles “Petey” from the 1920s and 30s television show “Our Gang.” Bentley is the main character in stories being written at all the COA centers and to be published and available to parents online.
There is a real life Bentley. He runs around on a beach in Florida where he lives with his owner, “Mr. Thad” [Pryor] a former world kickboxing champion and owner of the Children of America enterprise.