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Preschool Education

Imaginal education was first piloted in preschools, starting in Fifth City Chicago and then replicated around the world

Launched in 1964, the Fifth City Preschool in Chicago was the first structural application of a curriculum focused on changing images.  Uniquely the preschool had four schools:  infant, mini, pre and kinder for infants through kindergarten children. The curriculum, Basic, Relational, Psychological and Imaginal, was taught in each of four schools, spiraling to address each age level.  A decade later the preschool curriculum and methods were adapted in villages and cities globally. Stories from these preschools are shared here as well as the Learning Basket program that focused on parents of infants.

  • The Infant School was for babies sixteen weeks until they turned two. Each month of the infant curriculum emphasized a different global culture. Here is a daily schedule and lessons plans for the first week of the Infant School. Learning that babies could learn to read if the words were large enough (taught by Dolman and Delacotto, professors at the University of Illinois), the curriculum was taught while the babies were diapered.


  • The Preschool program for three and four year olds was funded by the national Head Start program in 1965 because of its provocative approach to change images through art, images, dreams and metaphors.  The daily curriculum, still being taught in 2020, bombards the preschoolers with strong positive images of personal integrity, freedom and creativity through rituals and songs. Karen Bueno documented the preschool songs in Children Singing the New Millennium.   The Fifth City Preschool was recognized in 1969 as one of the ten best preschools in the nation.


  • The Kinder School provided five year olds attending a half day of public school a curriculum for the other half of the day. Marjorie Branch, the principal at Leif Erickson Elementary, told the preschool teachers that the Kinder Schoolers were always ahead of the other children who did not have preschool education. She said the 5th City preschoolers had a a strong personal identity, an appreciation for learning and working with others, a sense of delight and wonder, and the ability to communicate with confidence.


Fifty years later the 5th City Preschool is still serving families in the community.

5th City Preschool Replication

Human Development Projects were launched globally, one of the first programs developed in each project was often a preschool, based on learnings from the 5th City model. Here are stories of some of them.

  • Egypt: Ronnie Seagren writes about how imaginal education was used to engage women in various community programs, including the El Bayad Preschool.
  • Marshall Islands:  Leah Early talks about the preschool miracle in the Majuro.
  • Philippines:  Aimee Hilliard and Efren Casquejo catalyzed the creation  of 33 preschools around Barangay, Philippines.
  • United States:
    • Mary Clutz began the  Community Interplay Preschool in California  with the curriculum emphasizing world cultures.  Starting with three and four year olds, the school added a year annually until they served preschoolers through sixth graders over the forty-nine years of the school.
    • Janelle Dove shares the 40-week preschool curriculum taught at Epworth United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
    • Sandra Conant Strachan remembers experiences teaching in the Delta Pace HDP Preschool in 1977-79.

Story Telling Time!

The Learning Basket

The Learning Basket enables parents and caregivers to nurture learning with infants and toddlers through play.  The following links give details on the Learning Basket:  Training brochure; Home Learning Basket®  Activities That Stimulate Brain Development Background Info Implementation Evaluation Results Message Play to Learn Book Learning Basket Training System Contact Info. Elise Packard has written about the effects of the Learning Basket in her dissertation, Project Demonstrating Excellence.

  • The Aditi Learning Centre in Pune, India, reaches out to rural young women, providing them with a safe and caring environment in which to complete their high-school education.  The Potali program of the Aditi Learning Centre helps parents of children aged 0 to 3 years. More than one thousand families have taken part since the program began in 2012. Eight two-member teams of practitioners work with 14 to 20 families for three months, exposing them to twelve distinct aspects of child care. The program’s impact is seen in the children’s improved diet, in family paradigms that now value the girl child, in helping parents stop physical disciplining of children, and in parents singing songs and reading stories with their children and allowing children to play with other children in the neighbourhood.

  • A network of 17 ”books-in-a-box” library. Using the network of eight Potali staff, six Aditi teachers and three students in Pune, India, one thousand books for children and parents have been curated and distributed to 17 locations. While the program only began in February 2018, early reports indicate that children and parents are enthusiastic about the opportunity to read books. The system for stocking and exchanging the books is simple: take a few books and exchange them whenever they wish to.

  • Helen Heal wrote a review and evaluation of the Learning Basket in Mexico 2002-2005.  

  • Joaquina Rodriguez reported on the Learning Basket in Guatemala in the October 2018 Wind and Waves: “Social Dramas, Enchiladas, Toys and gardens: The Learning Basket Program Supports Rural Guatemalan Parents”.