Creative Enrichment Preschool

Monday – Friday
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Optional extended day add-on: 1 – 4 p.m.
Ages 2.9 – 5 years

Not-A-School is designed to nurture young children’s creative thinking as they explore the arts,the sciences and the environment through play and guided inquiry at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Our school is a laboratory for creative thinking where children have the freedom to pursue their passions, interests and ideas. We believe that young children are competent and deserve to be treated as collaborators in the construction of their own knowledge; that families are our partners in cultivating a community of trust and growth; and in the importance of nurturing the joy of lifelong learning. We strive to be responsive to all members of our community as we work together to create a program which values respect and equality.

This innovative program is now licensed as a childcare center by the State of California, and features a staff of fully qualified teachers. *Facility number 214005255

To get updates about upcoming tours and information sessions:

For more information, please contact Elisa Pagliarulo at (415) 339-3982 or epagliarulo(at)


Fall 2014

September 4

Parent Orientation

September 23

First Day of Not-A-School

October 20     

Teacher Professional Development

November 24 - 28

Thanksgiving Break 

December 22 - January 2

Winter Break

Spring 2015

January 5                        

First Day of Spring Semester

February 6

Teacher Professional Development

February 16 - 20

February Break

March 17

Teacher Professional Development

April 13 - 17

Spring Break

May 22

Last Day of Not-A-School

Cost per academic year

Morning Program, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Monday – Friday
Supporting Members $14,250
General $17,100

Supporting Members $9,000,
General $10,440

Supporting Members $6,000
General $7,200

Extended Day, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Monday – Friday
Supporting Members $9,000
General $11,250

Supporting Members $5,400
General $6,750

Supporting Members $3,600
General $4,500

Application Process

Applications are currently being accepted.

Apply Online

In addition to basic family information, we will request the answers to the following questions - you may wish to reflect on these prior to filling out the application form:

  • What is your reason for seeking a drop-off enrichment program for your child?
  • Tell us about your child’s previous playgroup or care-giver experiences.
  • What about this program is attractive to you (pedagogy, values, location, philosophy).
  • This program is designed to nurture creativity in young children. Why is creativity important to you and your family?
  • Please tell us about your child’s strengths and areas in which you hope they will develop.
  • What do you hope your child will learn and experience at Not-a-School?

An application and fee is required for each child applying to the program.

Enrollment for children continuing in multiple sessions will be guaranteed pending positive experiences for both children and staff.

We are not able to accept children in diapers or pull-ups. All children must be current on immunizations. Proof of vaccinations will be required upon enrollment.


Not-A-School Philosophy

Creative thinking begins early in every child’s life. It enables original thought and the ability to see solutions where others don’t. It unlocks possibilities and foster innovation. It provides the fundamental building blocks for success in school and beyond.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum is designed to ignite creative thinking in children. 7.5 acres of natural beauty inspires families to engage in a world of possibilities. Framed by the majestic backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, the museum is a space for imaginations to run wild. Every curated detail of our exhibits brings creative thinking to life for all stages of childhood. Navigate winding tunnels to develop physical and intellectual risk-taking skills. Feel the rush of cold-water tide pools that surprise and awaken curiosity. Imagine new worlds by transforming into a spider, a ship captain, or a bridge builder. At every turn is a new opportunity to challenge the boundaries of creativity.

Now we are taking these experiences beyond our physical location. We launched the Center for Childhood Creativity in 2011 to pioneer new research, thought-leadership, and teacher training programs that advance creative thinking in all children—extending our impact beyond the Museum.

Our mission: To ignite and advance creative thinking for all children.

Our methods are drawn from the Museum’s unique educational philosophy, which allows children and adults to construct learning together:

Providing opportunities for children to learn through play takes precedence over the need to teach specific educational content. Our goal is child-directed play, creating conditions for adults to let children make choices, take risks, and spend the time they need to construct their own understanding of the world. Our programs are designed to be fun for children and to allow parents, caregivers and Museum staff to join children as facilitators, researchers and collaborators.

Our delightful place-based exhibitions are the backdrop for un-facilitated play and programs that offer concrete experiences to deepen a child’s understanding of the local environment and the diverse communities that live here.

We employ developmentally-appropriate practices that incorporate knowledge of child development with flexible activities and curriculum that appeal to a wide range of ages and abilities.

We emphasize the process in activities that allow children to connect ideas and build their own structure through experimentation and repetition, developing and evaluating their own theories.

Our curriculum is open-ended: activities are intrinsically motivating, allowing for active engagement, sustained involvement and multiple outcomes.

Observation, Documentation, and Evaluation

The Museum uses these techniques in order to evaluate the success of our programs. At Not-A-School we will use some of these tactics to meet our goals:

Observation is performed to learn more about the children and adults who visit in order to assess their prior knowledge and skills, and to better adapt our programs to suit their needs and understand the impact of our work.

Documentation is used as a tool for recording observations and to “make children’s learning visible” through photographs, wall displays and communications collateral.

We reflect on what we have learned through observation and subsequent documentation and employ formal evaluation strategies such as surveys and behavioral coding in order to measure the success of our programs.

We will never evaluate or assess children in terms of whether they are meeting certain criteria, though we may study their behavior in order to evaluate our own teaching practices or to inform our overall understanding of how to nurture creativity in the best way. When children are playing in Museum exhibitions, Not-A-School teachers will supervise children’s play and support their social skills. More often than not, teachers will abstain from participating in children’s play while in exhibitions unless children invite them to participate or need scaffolding to play with other children. We feel that one of the most important gifts we can offer children here is the experience of child-directed play. Teachers will use these opportunities to gather documentation and observe children’s behavior.

We are inspired by best practices in the field of early childhood education such as Constructivist theory, Bank Street College, the Reggio Emilia approach, and Bev Bos at Roseville Community Preschool. Our peers in the informal learning community—The Portland Children’s Museum Opal School, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Preschool and the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center—have served as crucial inspiration in the development of this program.

Not-A-School Daily Activities

Daily activities are designed based on the children’s interests using an emergent curriculum model and designed to nurture social and emotional development by maximizing opportunities for collaboration and encouraging pro-social behavior. Teachers use documentation of children’s learning, reflective teaching practices and observations of children’s work in the program to guide decision making around curriculum. Children and Educators will create a community of learning together as they engage in art, science, music, and literacy activities. We have an outdoor area for the exclusive use of children in the program, but we will also take daily field trips to play in the Museum exhibits and go on outdoor adventures around Fort Baker.

Weekdays when the Museum is closed to the public, children enrolled in the program will have exclusive use of the exhibitions.

Typical Daily Schedule
(Museum Field Trips):

9 – 9:15 a.m.: Arrival
9:15 – 10:15 a.m.: Classroom play and project work
9:45 – 10 a.m.: Bathrooms
10 – 10:15 a.m.: Group gatherings or meetings
10:15 – 10:30 a.m.: Snack
10:30 – 11:55 a.m.: Adventures (beach visits, hikes, playing in the exhibits)
Noon – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch
12:45 – 1 p.m.: Closing rituals and dismissal

Alternate Daily Schedule
(As per licensing regulations):

9 – 9:15 a.m.: Arrival
9:15 – 10:15 a.m:

Group 1 Classroom play and project work
Group 2 Outdoor Play

9:45 – 10:15 a.m.: Bathrooms
10:15 – 10:30 a.m.: Snack
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.:

Group 1 Outdoor Play
Group 2 Classroom play and project work

11:30 a.m. – Noon: Group meeting
Noon – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch
12:45 – 1 p.m.: Closing rituals and dismissal

Parent Community and Participation

All primary caregivers and children enrolled in the program will be invited to attend a practice class the week before the program begins. This will give families a chance to meet each other, and get to know the instructors. Children who may need more opportunities to prepare for being dropped off are welcome to spend time with instructors prior to the beginning of the program by arrangement with the Public Programs Manager.

Parents are welcome to join us each morning from 9 – 9:15 a.m. any day their child is in the program. We welcome your participation, collaboration, and contributions to our program in any number of ways including, but not in any way limited to:


  • Reading stories
  • Helping with special snacks
  • Celebrating cultural and family events in the classroom
  • Cleaning and organizing the classroom
  • Sharing expertise
  • Supporting Museum wide events such as Goblin Jamboree


  • Attending lectures and events presented by the Museum such as Creativity Forum or annual spring fundraiser
  • Hosting and planning events for parents and children in the program
  • Arranging after school play dates at the Museum
  • Sharing parenting and educational resources with parents and teachers


  • Making a donation to support the Museum — gifts of any level help us ignite and advance creative thinking for all children
  • Purchasing items for the classroom from our wish list; such purchases may be eligible for a tax deduction
  • Contributing tuition deposits to support Not-A-School teacher professional development, program improvements and establishing a scholarship fund
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Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Not-A-School.

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