Alaya Preschool was founded in 1977 by students of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Naropa University’s founder. The preschool has been part of the Contemplative Education Department since 1994. Naropa University faculty and graduates, including those of the Early Childhood Education program, serve as the preschool’s staff.
At Alaya Preschool, the nature and style of the learning process is as important as what is learned. Young children learn primarily through their senses and their bodies, so the Alaya emphasis is on social skills, language skills, and on emotional and physical growth and well-being. Activities include block-building, cooking, art (painting, clay, collage, sculpting, weaving, puppetry), dramatic and fantasy play, sand and water play, games and puzzles, stories, music (singing, movement and instruments), gardening, nature exploring, pets, and outdoor play. Within Alaya’s homelike and nurturing environment, children are able to observe, experience and participate in simple, basic living (life) experiences: relationships, helping, sharing, preparing food, cleaning up, and caring for plants and animals.
At Alaya, the classes are named for the Shambhala dignities: the Tiger, the Snow Lion, and the Garuda.
- The Tiger group is made up of the toddlers, 2–3 years old (nine children with two teachers). These children are awakening, beginning to reach out and form friendships with each other, but they still need the security and comfort that a small group allows.
- The Snow Lions are the group of younger preschoolers, aged 3–4 years (thirteen children with two teachers). This is a group of children in transition. No longer babies, the world is there for them to fully explore and discover.
- The Garudas are the older preschool group of 4–5 year olds (seventeen children with two teachers). The children in this group are building the foundation to carry them into the world. The group is large enough to provide children with the opportunity to relate with each other in many types of situations and play, yet small enough to form special friendships with classmates and teachers.
Rhythm of the Day
The rhythm of the day is the discipline in which the young child’s work is given some predictability. It allows the children and their teachers to relax within the forms of their day. A child’s experience throughout the day at Alaya begins with greetings upon entering the facility, and continue throughout the day’s activities.
Alaya Preschool is located in a house situated on a beautiful, fenced, tree-shaded acre with swings, sand areas, climbing trees, playhouses, and a pottery shop. Each group has its own classroom or rooms arranged into interest and activity areas appropriate to the children’s development.
Parents are encouraged to participate in their child’s classroom with a special activity (music, dance, cooking, etc.), accompanying the class on a field trip, or just connecting with their child’s day. Parents are required to participate in Environment Days (or pay a maintenance fee) where parents and staff work together to improve or maintain the facility and environment. Alaya relies on fundraising and on parental support for equipment, repairs, and improvements. (All contributions are tax deductible). Families must volunteer ten service hours (or pay a fundraising fee) each year for planning and organizing annual fundraising activities or other designated projects.
In the summer, Alaya Preschool provides a day program for school-age children who are finishing first, second, and third grades. The main base camp is a yurt-tent located in Alaya’s front yard. This group enrolls 10–12 children with one adult counselor. The children spend time at the school as well as out in the community swimming, hiking, and exploring Boulder’s many lovely parks. Information about registration and tuition rates is available each spring.