First Baptist Church has had a weekday school program since 1952, beginning with a class of twenty K-5 children in the church’s downtown location. Re-locating to its current site in 1976 on Cleveland Street, First Baptist Day School now welcomes around 230 children, ages 8 weeks through 5-K, and their families from Greenville and its surrounding areas. First Baptist Church began an Infant-toddler program in 1969 which welcomed children from 8 weeks to 2 years of age. For many years the two schools, First Baptist Day School and First Baptist Infant-Toddler Program, were operated separately until the decision was made to join the two schools together as one school beginning in the fall of 2017.
We are inspired by the Reggio approach from Reggio Emilia, Italy. Our Reggio journey began at a NAEYC conference in Atlanta in 1989 where our staff discovered the Reggio-Emilia approach to Early Childhood Education. Initial intrigue grew to an intense exploration of Reggio resources by past director, Jane Watkins, who organized a dialogue with a small contingent of staff members, culminating in a full-staff retreat in 1992 to build understanding of the Reggio approach. Participation in symposiums and conferences across the United States and visits to other Reggio-inspired schools brings opportunities for collaboration with those who are also exploring the Reggio philosophy. FBDS educators have joined six study groups to Reggio Emilia, Italy between 1996 and 2016, and have experienced the Hundred Languages of Children Exhibit in many U.S. cities. Most recently we brought a new version of the exhibit, The Wonder of Learning, to our city from January – May 2014. The work of our school community is strengthened and challenged through our participation in a long-term professional development project with Inspired Practices, under the leadership of Dr. Margie Cooper. Inspired Practices seeks to build lasting, professional-exchange relationships among small groups of schools that are inspired by the Reggio-Emilia approach in a professional development project called Project Infinity. Through our participation with Inspired Practices, we studied and collaborated with Amelia Gambetti and other national and international educators. Our journey continues with co-directors Dewanda Martin, Rosemary New, and Kathy Stewart who have challenged our staff to a deeper level of commitment in our work and a renewed dedication to our goal of building a community where children, educators and families collaborate, wonder and research together. We feel it is our responsibility to share the voice of the child with the community.