Fostering a Healthy and Authentic way of Connecting with and Caring for Nature at ITC

From our earliest days, ITC has built and maintained deep connections with children in the outdoors. In fact, much of teacher research that’s been conducted in the past years has often been influenced by this and taking our wonderings about children and nature a step further. This research has often been made possible by the Susan B. Twombly Grant. (See below for more details!)

Inch Worm.JPG

Instilling a love for nature and a responsibility for taking care of our planet is apparent at ITC. This is evident in our philosophy and cultures within the classroom as children become enamored with the tiniest creatures that make their way inside our classrooms (ants) and out on the playgrounds (birds, worms, centipedes, etc).

“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it."

David Sobel

It’s also apparent in our Science and Nature program, as well as classroom excursions to the Big and Little Woods. We spend an extended amount of time outside, involved in all things nature, either on our playgrounds or in the woods, and find the benefits of it vital for child development across the domains. It is such a valuable relationship we have with our great Earth.

Teachers as Researchers via the Susan Twombly Grant

Seetha Gopalsamy, Debi Patuto, and Kathy Stein began our Community Garden a few years ago and continue to spearhead this project.

Viv Ricketts studied Nature Based Education and children's risk taking and continues to explore these topics during Little and Big Woods explorations with her group.

Christin Magliozzi and Brianna McGregor focused their attention on initial play yard design and loose parts play outdoors.

Sonny Apodaca examined documentation without interrupting children's play, which is still an area of interest in her work as she completes her Master's Degree through the Teacher Education Program at the Boulder Journey School.

Going Green at ITC - Robin Stange, 2/3B

Thinking about our effect on the environment has always been a part of my teaching philosophy since I started in 2009. Teaching in New York City, where I am originally from, I noticed that the school I worked in, public or private, didn't recycle, have nature curriculum, had empty parking lots or man-made climbing structures for outdoor play, and animals were just pictures in a book. I desperately tried to make changes or introduce curriculum that included all the ways we could help our planet but was met with rejection...until I started working at ITC.

I moved to Massachusetts and began working at ITC in the fall of 2018. I still have not gotten over the amazing science and nature curriculum that we have, the sense of wonder I feel traversing the Big Woods with my 2/3B class and the fulfillment I receive when the children let me know how much fun they have in the woods. These peaceful feelings have inspired a sense of responsibility in me over the woods and our environment in general to create the ITC Green Team: a committee of like minded teachers who will work together to come up with sustainable ways to do so.

Our first order of business was to create a recycling program here at the school that would involve all classrooms and students. Single Stream Recycling will begin center wide next school year! We will be collaborating with the Community Garden to hopefully begin a composting program. The Green Team is planning on turning our parking lot into a No Idling Zone (meaning turning our cars off when we are not moving to reduce harmful emissions that children are very susceptible to). ITC has also become the first Infant-Toddler Program and has the youngest students ever to join the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection sponsored Green Team! I can't wait to continue bringing more of the team's ideas to life and am very dedicated to continuing to work hard to help our environment for future generations.

ITC Community Garden - Seetha Gopalsamy

We started our community garden four years ago to give us another opportunity to plant curiosity in the minds of the children to wonder where their produce is coming from and to get them involved in planting, watering, weeding, and being part of the process to see the final fruit. The present beautiful garden space is a dream come true for many staff and ITC families. From the beginning, this garden has been a team effort involving the parents, teachers, and children who come to ITC and supports the important role that learning, growing, and exploring play in our outdoor investigations. The garden has also given the children a chance to help others, as the PSB group did some weeding for the Infants and Young Toddlers.

How the Community Garden works:

  • each community is assigned a planter box in which to grow vegetables/fruits.

  • to increase our harvest, we are growing more of the same fruits/vegetables in different classrooms instead of each group growing something different.

  • this year's crops: tomatoes, squash, cucumber, green beans, strawberries, peppers

Garden Enhancements


ITC Alums Jenn Benati and Hunter Whitbeck returned to ITC to work with the PSD class to incubate and hatch chicken eggs. They also helped the PSD children to plant peppers in their garden box! This was part of their Senior Project that focused on Sustainable Gardening.


ITC partners with Springdell Farm in Littleton to supplement our snacks with fruits and vegetables from a farm share. Check out their latest blog entry here:


Teacher Observation in Action

Teacher Observation in Action

We have learned a lot about how children play and what they are innately drawn to and interested in by observing them in many settings. Our Little Woods space in particular has taught us a great deal about the value of open-ended exploration, appropriate risk-taking, and endless opportunities for individual and social learning experiences.

Professional Development at ITC: Tackling the BIG IDEAS that influence our work

Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One)

Cindy Heaney, Executive Director

Professional development at ITC takes many forms:

  • Teachers attend local workshops and conferences;

  • We have monthly staff meetings with both in-house and guest speakers; and

  • We put on our own annual conference and an Infant Toddler workshop series, where our teachers present to the larger early childhood community.

Teachers create goals annually, usually revolving around questions they wonder about or research-based concepts that are new to the field.

Often, teams come up with a group goal that they explore together throughout the year. All of this work and continual reflection keeps our teaching fresh and builds our foundational thinking.

One approach we have explored of late is addressing professional development through a book group format. Early this fall, the administrative team began reading Rest, Play, Grow by Deborah MacNamara and we were so intrigued that we quickly brought it to the lead teacher group so we could dig deeper. It was soon obvious that we needed to open the book to the entire staff so that teams could wrestle with some of the ideas presented.

At that level, we dedicated two staff meetings to the book—one in November and one in January---where we reviewed key elements as a full staff and then broke into teams for further reflection and discussion. We have finished the book but we are not at all “finished.”

There is so much more for us to cull here, as we play with ideas presented, wrestle with the ideas that irk us, and champion the ideas that resonate with our ongoing work with children and families.

We will add yet another layer at our March staff meeting, where guest presenter Martha Eshoo will lead us through a developmental look at children’s behavior that will tie in nicely with Rest, Play, Grow.

As you can see, professional development isn’t something we check off in a neat little box on a to-do list and move on…it is part of our living, breathing process of growth---as individuals and as a program!


Some key elements from Rest, Play, Grow that have challenged our thinking

Since our earliest days, ITC has had as a focus the idea of relationship-based care. Our approach has had several iterations over the last 38 years, sometimes meeting a common need that has bubbled up (EX: parent-teacher partnerships), and sometimes grounded in the latest research (EX: What are theorists saying about attachment and how does that align with primary caregiving in infants and toddlers?).

Responsive Caregiving is one term we use to explain what it is we do---the underlying concept that caregiving is not “one size fits all,” but highly individualized---meeting the child where she is with what she needs from us in order to thrive in a group care setting. Rest, Play, Grow has added depth, language and detail to our ongoing narrative, helping us to continue championing the idea that teaching “in relationship” lays the groundwork for EVERYTHING ELSE.

Some Key Elements from our reading

It’s not the behavior we should focus on, but what’s beneath the behavior…

  • Coming alongside the child when in conflict, not in opposition

  • Emotional Charge-Our perspective of children’s BIG EMOTIONS influences our response

  • Young children can only feel one emotion at a time (we can feel sad and excited about an upcoming move…a toddler or preschooler can only tackle one of these feelings at a time)

  • Ground our expectations in understanding human development… and this child’s development …and ability to function in this moment

  • Counter-will as an expectation (natural part of human development)

  • “Collecting” children before making a request of them

  • Frustration-anger to tears-helping children feel safe to lean into us when in conflict or distress (especially so if the conflict is with us)

  • Filling up the child so they are emotionally capable of moving away from  us for short periods (fill them up in caregiving moments)

  • Trust---the backbone of all relationships

  • Strong, supportive adult relationships are primary throughout the birth to 8 years, and continue to be critical as children develop healthy peer relationships in middle childhood and teen years---Keeping adults central in children’s lives…

  • Children are developing… (they aren’t finished yet!). Our expectations need to reflect our understanding of and respect for each child’s right to his or her own maturational trajectory.

Math Curriculum: Infant, Toddlers & 2/3's

Math Curriculum: Infant, Toddlers & 2/3's

Math experiences have been heightened by the use of loose parts in all of our classrooms, from collections of containers and wooden rings in the Infant Room to a box of boxes and lots of colored tiles in the Toddler rooms.  The role of the teacher is to observe…

Math: Program Planning and Teaching with Intention

Math: Program Planning and Teaching with Intention

It is easy to think that teaching a child to count to ten by rote is math education. What we really want to know, though, is that a child understands numbers— that “3” has a specific “three-ness” that is constant. That understanding is a lot longer process and requires a great deal of exposure to mathematical ideas and plenty of time to play with them…

ITC's New Logo!

ITC's New Logo!

The story of our logo is as old as we are. In 1981, Faith LeBaron and Lesley Hill sat on tiny chairs in the middle of an empty room at St Matthew’s Methodist Church and birthed a center-based program for infants and toddlers that eventually grew into our school as we know it today. Our original logo projected 2 very young children in silhouette: It was simple, classic and reflected our reverence for the age and stage of development that we served.  It had a warm, family feel