Peter Pan Nursery School Celebrates 70 years in Maxwell Park Neighborhood

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” —Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers

Housed in the historic Maxwell House, Peter Pan Cooperative has been a neighborhood institution for 70 years, educating generations of preschoolers through the power of play. While flashcards, drills, and memorization filter down to younger and younger children, Peter Pan is guided by research showing that open-ended play in the preschool years better prepares children for long term educational success. What’s more, as a co-op, the parents are deeply involved in the school and drive every aspect of its curriculum and schedule. Because of this total parent participation, fees stay affordable and the school’s community is a strong and lasting one.

“The basics for young children are wonder, discovery and experience. If it hasn’t been in the hand, the body and the heart, it can’t be in the brain.” —Bev Bos, who was a mentor to the director Gail Murphy, was one of the strongest advocates of the play-based philosophy of early childhood education in the cooperative setting. Her work has had an enormous influence on Peter Pan.

Peter Pan Nursery School was established by 10 mothers in a backyard in Oakland during the latter part of the 1940s. Licenced in 1947, the co-op moved to the historic Maxwell House in 1983. An early brochure boasts that Peter Pan was the first parent cooperative preschool in the City of Oakland.

“(Peter Pan) is unique because we follow the children’s lead and have faith that this kind of school works. Kids love their school: they look forward to coming each day and they thrive. When they leave they are leaders and helpers and are kind.” —Gail Murphy, Peter Pan’s director for 33 of the 70 years.

On a broader scale, Peter Pan’s goal is to educate parents in teaching children acceptance, advocacy, and personal responsibility. Peter Pan parents gain parenting education on topics including positive discipline, kindergarten readiness, temperament, race, gender, and ages and stages.

To be as inclusive as possible, the school has a scholarship program and provides opportunities for parents to pay tuition through a work exchange in the extended care program.

Peter Pan Co-Op will be celebrating their anniversary in multiple events this school year. The school is asking alumni to register through the school website as the Peter Pan community is eager to reconnect with the 70 years of alumni students. Alumni are invited to attend and celebrate Peter Pan on Alumni Day, Friday, November 10th, 10 AM at the Maxwell Park campus, as well as at the Peter Pan Annual Holiday Auction, Saturday, December 2nd, 6 PM at the Oakland Center for Spiritual Living.