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Guest Essay | Dr. Judy Krause: Pacific Oaks Children’s School, Nearly 80 Years of Pasadena History

Published on Monday, August 1, 2022 | 1:46 pm

The year was 1945 and World War II was ending; it was a turbulent time filled with uncertainty. In Pasadena, seven Quaker families united to create a place where young children could experience simplicity, integrity, harmony, and equality. They purchased property on California Blvd. from Whittier College, who had been operating their Broadoaks School on the site since the first house was built as an orphanage and school in 1906.

The families founded the School with a philosophy based on respect for the individual and the principles of non-violence. Their message was to “Value the child” and to value every person. In their commitment to honor young children and their families, Pacific Oaks Children’s School was born.

Pacific Oaks Children’s School was established to break down social, economic, ethnic, and racial barriers.

There were restrictive covenants in place that did not allow people of color on the property. Despite this, the founding families decided to provide educational alternatives for young children. In direct defiance, the School hired Japanese American Taka Nomura as a teacher.

From the time the founding families opened the School, their vision of a “cradle to grave education” has been employed. An environment in which children learn through relationships and hands-on experience was fostered. It became apparent that PO’s education model of inclusion and self-discovery could be applied to train future teachers.

From 1945-1951, an experimental work-study junior college program, sponsored by Cornell University was held on site, which led to a certificate program to train early childhood educators. In 1958, Pacific Oaks College was established to teach educators to make an impact in their communities and the College received accreditation in 1959. Courses were taught at the Children’s School until capacity led to the necessity of purchasing an additional campus for the College students in 1978. As a world-renowned model for quality early childhood education programs, the College’s current degree programs are based upon the pedagogy implemented at the Children’s School.

As one of the first progressive education schools in the nation, the Children’s School implements the highest quality early childhood experiences. The School fosters opportunities for young children to grow and flourish while interacting within their environment through exploration, experimentation, self-discovery, peaceful conflict resolution, and most importantly, through play.

Based upon best practices of renowned early childhood theorists such as  John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky, the School implements an emergent curriculum. Teachers build relationships and connections with each child, getting to know their individual needs. Rich learning takes place both indoors and out through open-ended questioning, guidance, and encouragement. These experiences are based on the child’s unique interests and developmental growth.

The Children’s School proudly employs Anti-Bias Educational goals. In 1989, the National Association for the Education of Young Children published Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children, by Professor Louise Derman-Sparks (Faculty Emeritus) and the Anti-Bias Curriculum Task Force. The School supports their legacy by guiding children in understanding and accepting differences, while empowering them to promote equality and fairness.

75 years later, amid a worldwide pandemic in 2020, the world once again faced a turbulent time filled with uncertainty. After a brief six-month COVID-19 closure, 16 teachers, committed to the Children’s School’s founding values, reopened the School.

For nearly 80 years, Pacific Oaks Children’s School has been committed to the core values of equality, simplicity, non-violence, and community. Pacific Oaks is proud to honor the commitment of the seven Quaker families who opened the Children’s School and to remain a pillar in the Pasadena community.


Dr. Judy Krause

Executive Director, Pacific Oaks Children’s School

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