Roots & Branches

Roots and Branches

We draw tools from a variety of recognized sources but ultimately we are an agile learning center (https://agilelearningcenters.org). As such, we use agile terms to define the paths of experience for our learners...Roots & Branches. Roots is a play-based learning group that offers a multi-lingual morning meeting, facilitator-led offerings, ample outdoor exploration, and lots of time to tinker, dabble, and play how they'd like. We support learners as they begin to direct their days based on specific interests. We recognize the importance of rhythm and facilitate an environment that leads learners to draw conclusions and make their own discoveries. This happens through outdoor play (everyday, no matter the weather), imaginative play, conversations about books, open ended science and arts projects, music, movement and meal preparation. Please contact us for a readiness guide for our Roots group. 

Branches is a self-directed project, place, and play-based path that in addition to the exposure of the above rhythms and environment, offers the support of agile tools for learners to plan their days, define projects they explore, reflect on, and ultimately share with their community. This group features facilitator and learner-led offerings, meetings with small peer groups to support the self-directed learning process, and opportunities to share projects with our community. Learners embrace the opportunity to investigate the subjects they are passionate about. Joining Branches offers learners greater freedom in our center and greater responsibility as well. 

All Cottonwood half day learners (ages 2.5-4) will be in our Roots group. We will explain the Branch agreements to all full day (ages 5+) learners at the beginning of the year and ultimately they will decide if they'd like to take them on, or if they'd like to participate in the Roots group. There will be opportunities throughout the day for both groups to share in space, offerings and other exploratory experiences. At any time a Root is welcome to begin the process to become a Branch and facilitators are happy to support the transition for Roots to Branches. 

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A Day at Cottonwood

On Monday through Thursday Cottonwood looks like this: We arrive beginning at 8:45 AM and start off by working individually, setting intentions of what we’d like to do for the day.

Next, we come together and set the day in community. This involves sharing a number of items:

  • Planned offerings: lessons the facilitators, parents, or other community members prepared to give that day which no one is required to attend

  • Intentions: sharing to see if others want to join or to request support for from facilitators

  • Organization: deciding what should be put on the schedule and at what time

  • Slice: a high-energy send off to collect and carry us into the next thing!

The rest of the day is up to the community, but always involves:

  • Offerings such as music, art, cooking, science, yoga, dance, puppetry, reading/writing with our curriculum, Read, Write, Inc.

  • Collaborative projects we work on over time and the steps to make them happen

  • Outdoor play rain or shine, snow or wind, you will find us in the spacious McGolrick Park building forts, playing neighborhood games, and examining nature

Some learners who attend for the first half of the day leave at 12 PM and others will stay for the rest of the day until 2:30 PM.

The day ends with a closing circle to share whatever we discovered and to check in with long term projects as is necessary.


On Friday Cottonwood looks like this:

Field trips start at 9:00 AM and end at 2:30 PM. Each field trip usually begins and ends at the Park Church, but occasionally we meet on site of the trip nearby.

Past field trips have included:

  • Brooklyn Botanical Garden

  • Prospect Park and Brooklyn Library

  • Brooklyn Grange

  • Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

  • Museum of Math

  • Museum of Natural History

  • New York Hall of Science

  • Battleship Intrepid

  • Ice Skating 

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Cooper Hewitt Design Museum

  • Apple Picking Upstate