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In 1926, two educational pioneers, Dr. Carleton W. Washburne, Superintendent of the Winnetka Public Schools, and Mrs. Rose Alschuler, a national leader in nursery school education and founding member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (“NAEYC”) began collaborating on an idea for a preschool housed within a public school. They shared the belief that the teachers and children of both schools would benefit. In 1927, the Winnetka Public School Nursery opened its doors.

The school’s initial programs reflected a willingness to innovate and experiment. WPSN was established as a not-for-profit school dedicated to the following objectives: sound child development, family life education, service to the community, and research. “Child Study” classes in the eighth grade were designed to allow for reciprocal relationships between junior high students and preschoolers. A consulting psychologist was a school resource from its earliest days, and many decades later we continue to engage expert consultants to help maximize the potential of all of our children.


Parent education and the school-family relationship were valued components in fostering children’s individual growth and development. An original idea at the time, “30-45 minute interviews with at least one parent present” was recognized by the founders as critical to establishing a bond between parents and school. Pre-enrollment parent tours and face-to-face conferences are still integral parts of our program.

WPSN has spent all but the 1980s in Skokie School, when an increasing student population necessitated a move to Crow Island School. Back in Skokie School since 1991, the nursery school occupies the former industrial arts wing, which was transformed into an inviting learning space. In 2014 our playground was completely redesigned to create an extraordinary outdoor learning environment. Reciprocal programs with older students in the District 36 middle (Skokie) and junior high (Washburne) schools continue to enrich the WPSN program.

In 1992, Italian educators from the Reggio Emilia Municipal Preschools visited Winnetka. Since that time WPSN has studied, experimented and adapted the ideas emerging from our Italian colleagues as well as U.S. based Reggio-inspired preschool educators. We have traveled to visit other schools, attended conferences and sent teachers to study tours in Reggio Emilia in 2001, 2004, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Our interest in the Reggio approach has grown steadily as we have recognized that it is wonderfully consistent with our previous seven decades of progressive educational practice.

A proud history of innovation and excellence informs our work in the present and our plans for the future.

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