At many schools, play is an activity. At Willow, it’s the basis for serious learning.

Nothing fires up young minds like play. That is why Willow intentionally creates a learning environment that combines imaginative play with exploration and hands-on experiences. In our Age 3 & 4 classes, children take part in a wide range of play-based activities for an uninterrupted period of time, including gardening, baking, dramatic storytelling, music, dance, and more. With guidance from teachers, children make meaning of their world, build essential cognitive, emotional and social skills, and develop a lasting passion to learn. As students progress through Willow, the joy, creativity and inquiry that guides play-based learning is integrated into the curriculum.

Here are some of the inventive ways play-based learning evolves:

Dummy to Close First Accordion
Mathematics — First Grade

Games are an instrumental part of essential math lessons. When Grade One students study currency, they play a bartering game in a classroom store that builds proficiency in counting, addition, subtraction, and the understanding of monetary value.

Genius Hour — Fourth Grade

Innovative companies like Google practice Genius Hour and so do Willow’s third, fourth, and fifth graders.  Genius Hour gives students dedicated time to explore a passion or interest, and develop a project that demonstrates their understanding and mastery of the topic. Willow students have used their Genius Hour to explore the construct of the Rube Goldberg machine and innovate the design. They have also researched the lives of entrepreneurs and investigated the story behind the Kindness Rocks.

Silk Road Project — Seventh Grade

Elements of play-based learning are carried over into the seventh grade in-depth study of The Silk Road. The complex examination of peoples and civilization is also infused with joy and creativity. Seventh graders recreate historical events, design games, construct a “sandstorm” tunnel replicating the perilous journey of the time period, and create a Silk Road Journal that incorporates authentic and interactive details of the trade route that connected East and West.

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Director of Admissions Lisa VanderVeen is here to help! Contact her at (908) 470-9500, ext. 1100 or via email

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