Teaching & Learning Blog

Learn more about PS1's academic program, philosophy, and curriculum through the lens of Nancy Harding, our Assistant Head for Teaching & Learning. The Teaching & Learning Blog features posts published several times throughout the year. See the latest posts below, or click the link to read past posts from 2016-2017.


  • 2017-2018

The “Summer Slide”

You may have heard the term, “Summer Slide.” It refers to the perceived loss of learning that children may experience over the summer months. The assumption is that the only learning that matters occurs in school, and without that daily reinforcement children will be at a deficit in September. This is a very narrow definition of learning, and yet it often goes unchallenged. Grey, 2017, suggests that the most important lessons of life are learned in more unstructured settings; giving us opportunities to make our own decisions, create our own activities, and figure out how to be with ourselves and each other.

Posted Jul 22, 2017, Peter Gray Ph.D. Psychology Today

As we head off into summer break, I reflect back on my own experience as a parent.

In the summer of 2001 my son was five years old and I started to read him the first Harry Potter book. We sat on the couch and read a lot that summer. Sure he went to day camp and swimming lessons and participated in other summer activities, but what I remember most fondly is being curled up together and reading to him for hours on end. Happily, there were seven other books and we got to do this for seven summers. Sometimes as he got older, we would share the reading, but mostly he preferred just listening. And yes, as he got older, the space between us on the couch grew… though he stayed close.

These are deep and lovely memories of being with my boy (who is now grown). Why am I telling you this story? I think that as parents, we want to give our children EVERYTHING. We want to be THE BEST parents and make sure that our children don’t MISS OUT. But the most important stuff happens in the times between all the planning and structure.

Be quiet with your children this summer, lay around, relax, draw, read, listen to music, play! They will be out of the house in what will feel like a minute. The summer slides to think about are the slip n slide or the slides in the playground or the slides at the water park!

​Have Fun. Enjoy your precious children.​


Problem-solving as adults relates to the imaginings of our childhood. Imagination is not typically highlighted as part of the executive function skills, yet we know that the ability to examine various outcomes and possibilities is essential to creating the lives we want as adults. Make-believe or imaginative play requires a considerable amount of intellectual flexibility in the child, and flexibility is a key ingredient in both planning and creative problem-solving.

Theoretically, one term for this is decentration. Decentration explains the link between fantasy play and divergent thinking (Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983). Decentration involves the ability to attend simultaneously to many features of one's environment, to transform objects and situations while at the same time understanding their original identities and states, to imagine at the same time things as they are and also as they were. For example, the child engaged in make-believe knows that the object he is sitting in is a cardboard box, but he pretends it is a car; in a sense, it is both a box and a car at once, and perhaps it was a submarine ten minutes earlier. Make-believe play, therefore, provides evidence of a considerable amount of intellectual flexibility in the child, and flexibility is a key ingredient in the creative process.

At PS1, imagination is recognized as an important aspect of children’s development as a way for them to express themselves and follow their unique interests. Classrooms and indoor/outdoor play spaces are intentionally organized with innovative materials to support joy in discovery and engage each learner. From the ground up, PS1 encourages this exploration and imagination.



Learning Expeditions

Field trips at PS1 are an integral part of the learning experience. Our teachers use the rich opportunities afforded us by being an urban school, as well as our access to ocean and mountains and the diverse ecology that exists so close at hand.

Our field trips are actually Learning Expeditions.

The purpose of these trips is to provide students with real-world connections to the curriculum content. From La Plaza de Cultural y Artes to the California Oil Museum to the all-school camping trip, our students are out in the world acquiring and processing information. New research on the power of learning expeditions indicates that enrichment field trips increase critical thinking, motivation to learn, and address multiple learning modes (Neville, 2011). Teachers and students return from these trips rich with anecdotes about connections that the students have made and the thinking that was generated and teachers build on these insights back in the classroom. PS1 Learning Expeditions enrich the curriculum and student learning.


Additional Posts:

PS1 and Thematic Curriculum:


Structure in a Progressive Classroom: