Golden Pond School – The Educator’s Choice

Educators recognize a stellar curriculum and quality teachers. They understand the time and effort required to create strong relationships with children. Educators value the passion it takes to ignite a child’s curiosity and desire to learn, and know that the right balance of academic and social opportunities lays a strong foundation for confidence, independence and joyful learning.  This is why so many of our GPS Families are teachers and school administrators.

Parents express their appreciation in a variety of ways, and we value each and every one. A beautiful, heartfelt letter was recently received from a GP parent who is also a long time educator.  It demonstrates the impact that our teachers and programs can have on students who begin their formal education here.

As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation not only for Golden Pond, but especially for two teachers who have made a world of difference in our daughter’s life. As an LCPS elementary school teacher of 15 years, I know firsthand the incredible amount of work that goes on to create success of this nature.”

Because of her shy and reserved nature, her parents were concerned that teachers would not see her full potential. As they learned, our experienced and loving teachers are able to gently challenge students and help them excel socially, emotionally and academically.

Because of Mrs. Rocha and Mrs. Culfogienis, our daughter thrived this year and we were delighted to see her grow in ways that we had only dreamed about...We have seen the amazing effect their teaching skills.. have had on our daughter. She has simply soared in their care, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. She talks at home about her teachers frequently.. makes connections between what she’s done at school to what we’re doing at home. Her love of learning is truly evident, and her communication skills continue to grow and astound us. She plays with children in a way we had never seen before and both initiates and engages in conversations with others. She no longer cries or hides when adults talk to her, and she has joined her first ballet class with confidence and enthusiasm”

At Golden Pond School our faculty and staff are meticulously assembled over many years with unparalleled credentials and a passion for early childhood education. Our teachers have an average of 14 years’ experience teaching young children, and many have master’s degrees. Our administrative team also brings a wealth of experience from diverse fields, earning them respect and appreciation from busy parents and teachers alike.

“We know these things have come from her preschool experience, particularly the loving, guiding nature of Mrs. Rocha and Mrs. Culfogienis. We are so grateful our daughter was given the opportunity to be in their class. Many other teachers would have coddled her, asking her only to do what they observed her to be capable of. However, they saw more in her, pushed her out of her comfort zone and consequently, she excelled.”

Golden Pond School is dedicated to teaching the whole child through hands-on learning and play. Our dedicated team, their commitment to children, and the innovative Golden Pond Way curriculum is what makes Golden Pond School a true gem in the Ashburn community.

Additional Educator Testimonials:

“I love the warm and welcoming atmosphere. All of the staff and teachers made my son feel very comfortable. As an educator, I immediately noticed and valued the academic rigor of the KE program and that the curriculum is presented in a very creative, hands-on way. The classes delve deeper into topics and are more challenged than at my son’s morning Kindergarten program. When he came home from school, everything he was excited about and wanted to share with me had happened at Golden Pond!”

 – William, GPS Parent & PWPS Educator

“While searching for a school for my daughter it was extremely important to me to find a learning environment that was as much like the one I sought to provide for the many preschoolers I have taught over the years. I wanted a school that first and foremost saw my child as a unique individual with varied interests and personality traits–and used that knowledge to help her learn and grow in the way that was best for her. I wanted professionals who were informed by developmentally appropriate practice and primarily used a play based learning approach, as children learn so much better through an atmosphere that is fun and engaging with various learning opportunities provided by and amongst their peers. And finally, I wanted a school that put her social emotional development at the forefront, as I believe the preschool years are the most important ones to help our children become the self-aware, kind, independent, and resilient individuals we truly want them to grow to be. I have found Golden Pond to do all this and more in the year we have been at this school. I am continually impressed with the teachers and staff, and my daughter’s excitement while relaying the events of each school day in detail tell me we made the right choice with GPS! We are so happy to be continuing her journey there next year!”

– Holly P., GPS Parent and Educator

“As a former teacher, I recognize how important it is for a teacher to see each child as an individual learner with different strengths and challenges.  I love how GPS tunes in to each child and makes their learning experience rewarding and relevant to them.  It allowed our daughter to grow in her own love of learning and gave her such pride in her accomplishments … I immediately loved how GPS approached learning new things from so many different perspectives.  A child learns faster and retains information longer if they experience it, rather than just hear it.  Golden Pond takes this to new levels.  Learning is hands on.  They build, experiment, touch, taste and create.  Our daughter still points out levers and pulleys and inclined planes from when she got to build them and test them out 3 years ago!  She has carried this over to Elementary School and has an academic confidence that came from being given the opportunity to learn on so many different levels.”

 –  Melissa F., GPS Parent and Educator

Cooking with GPS at Whole Foods!

We are proud to announce our new partnership with Whole Foods Ashburn! GPS will be teaching Seasonal Cooking Classes taught the Golden Pond Way at our local Whole Foods store!

Children and parents loved our Spring Snacks class on May 10th, 2017. The children enjoyed a Spring story and the old saying “April Showers Bring May Flowers” came to life with food! Edible creations of “Showers”, “Suns” and “Flowers” were made with beautiful organic fruits and vegetables. The children snacked on their creations at our Taste Testing table with three different dips and then graphed their favorites. Next we moved to a favorite activity of the day – scrubbing fresh vegetables in water and finding foods in our Sensory Bins! We finished up our class with some creative singing and dancing and our little chefs were all smiles! Child-sized grocery carts, food games, flower puzzles and grocery shopping books were also enjoyed by all!

Mark your calendars for our upcoming Summer Berries Cooking Event!

Wed., July 26th, 10-11am!
Children ages 2-6 are invited with a parent
Please RSVP as space is limited

Each family who attends the event will receive a 1lb. container of Organic Strawberries! (as supplies last)

Visit our Event Listing on Facebook and SHARE the event to be entered to WIN a $25, $15, or $10 Whole Foods Gift Card!

Stay in the know and join our quarterly Enrollment Newsletter to learn about our seasonal Cooking Classes at Whole Foods Ashburn!

Raising Successful Children

Research shows that Executive Function skills predict children’s success in life and school more than IQ!

Kathie Burrell, owner of GPS for over 14 years and an expert in Brain Appropriate learning, recently shared with Discovery Elementary School families the importance of Executive Function Skills. The Executive Function skills coordinate the smooth working of 3 areas of the brain: Inhibitory Control; Working Memory; and Cognitive/Mental Flexibility. These skills grow in complexity as the child grows and is often called the Air Traffic Control System of the brain.

Inhibitory Control is the ability to control inappropriate behaviors or responses including focusing, task initiation and self-monitoring skills. Working Memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for short periods of time. As children gain more facts and experiences they must retain or know where to find them. Cognitive/Mental Flexibility is the ability to transition from an activity with ease including planning, prioritizing and organization. These processes allow children to pay attention in class, develop good working habits, plan and complete tasks and think creatively when unexpected outcomes occur.

Children are naturally curious and you have the power to help build their brains and strengthen their Executive Function skills. Proper functioning of these areas is not solely genetic and plasticity of the brains allows for promoting its successful development. Engaging emotions, guiding to make connections, reducing learning stress, creating meaningful experiences and making learning fun all help develop these important skills.

By establishing routines and modeling the behavior you want you will create important habits for your children. Task initiation is developed by establishing routines and avoiding procrastination. Use check lists and calendars! Because the brain is a pleasure seeking organ, follow the GPS Philosophy – make it meaningful and fun! Here are some ideas to develop these areas:

Impulse Control

  • Board and Card Games
  • Red Light/Green Light
  • Tag
  • Sharing Activities


  • Memory/Concentration
  • 20 Questions
  • Freeze Dance
  • Puzzles

Flexibility of Mind

  • Charades
  • Sorting activities
  • Simon Says


  • Competitions
  • Board and Card Games
  • Puzzles

Planning and Prioritizing

  • Parties
  • Sleep-overs


  • Scavenger Hunts with sorting
  • Cooking
    Planning a Lemonade Stand

Working Memory

  • All of the above!
  • Cumulative Songs
  • Cumulative Story Games

Remember – these important skills can be taught behaviors because of the plasticity of the brain. So grab your games of Uno and Connect 4 and let the fun (and Executive Function Skills) begin!

Student Special – August Summer Camp Discount at The Little Gym of Ashburn!

Golden Pond School is proud to provide 8 weeks of Half-Day and Full-Day camp this summer from 7:30am – 6:00pm. We understand families may need some additional camps in August and have partnered with the wonderful team at The Little Gym of Ashburn to give our GPS Families a fantastic Student Special!

Eligible Camps:

8/14-8/18: Hawaiian Hideaway
8/21-8/25: Superheros Unite

Monday – Friday, 9am – 12pm
Tuesday and Thursday, Extended day options available until 1pm and 4pm

Sign up for:
1 Three-Hour Camp/week and receive $10 off!
2 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $20 off!
3 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $30 off!
4 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $35 off!
5 Three-Hour Camps/week and receive $45 off!

Sign up for:
1 Full-Day Camp/week and receive $30 off!
1 Full-Day Camp/week and receive $35 off!

The Little Gym of Ashburn
43330 Junction Plaza, Suite 180
Ashburn , VA 20147-3407
Phone: (703) 723-0011

Contact Robert to book your camp adventures today!

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.

Golden Pond School – Read Across AmericaRead Across America is an annual reading and awareness program that encourages and celebrates reading! At Golden Pond School we know that children who are exposed to reading and nursery rhymes are more likely to do well in all areas of academics and develop a love of reading. Our print rich classrooms and daily stories help students master language, communication and speech skills. At GPS the interactive print exposure starts immediately with the daily sign in and exciting Morning Message.
Golden Pond School – Read Across America 2On Dr. Suess’s Birthday the fun begins with teachers wearing red and white striped hats at car line. Then special themed snacks and lots of reading and activities celebrating the beloved Dr. Suess. When children have fun learning – they love to learn!

Our students enthusiastically welcome special guest readers all month long in the classrooms. We strongly encourage friends and family to join the classrooms and read to our students. This is an easy way to be a part of the classroom and see the love of reading build in the children. Watch your child’s vocabulary increase daily – a child under the age of 6 can learn up to 10 new words a day!

Exposure to Nursery Rhymes has been proven to lead to early reading. Mem Fox, writer of children’s books and an educationalist specializing in literacy, states in her book Reading Magic  that “Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time that they are 4 years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.” 

The integrated curriculum at Golden Pond School provides constant exposure to nursery rhymes monthly in all of our programs with a special emphasis in our 3’s and 4’s programs. The children are playing games and having fun while learning these important rhymes. The Humpty Dumpty Egg Drop experiment and the Jack Be Nimble Candlestick Jump game are some of the students favorite activities.

Books are a powerful tool for young children. Reading helps children acclimate to new experiences, strengthens their ability to focus and develops critical thinking skills. Reading to children is one of the most important steps in providing a foundation for academic excellence.

Grab a book, snuggle in and start reading!

5 Great Reasons to Send Your Child to Summer Camp!

Golden Pond School – Summer CampThere are so many great reasons to send your child to summer camp! At Golden Pond School, our Preschool Summer Camp includes ages 3-4, while our School Age Camp is for Rising Kindergartners through Third Graders. In both our half-day and full-day options, our campers look forward to art, stories, science, in-house field trips, water fun, games and daily hands-on excitement!

Below are our staff’s top 5 reasons to send your child to camp!

Keep Those Neurons Pumping

Participation in intentional programs, such as camp, helps promote learning during the summer months. GPS Summer Camp helps children avoid the “Summer Slide” by providing engaging experiences that enable the students to maintain skills they acquired during the school year. It also provides excellent opportunities for developmental growth, which help build the necessary foundation for future academic achievement. The hands-on nature of our quality camp program often helps children who struggle in conventional education settings.
Ready, Set, Go!

Outdoor time enriches a child’s perception of the natural world and helps foster the development of their senses. At GPS Summer Camp, children can unplug from technology and participate in a variety of active challenges. Our program will provide a balance of planned outdoor activities with periods of child-directed, unstructured play.
Try It, You Might Like It!

Camp is the perfect place to try new activities and pursue new interests. According to recent research from the American Camp Association (ACA), 74% of campers reported trying new endeavors that they were initially reluctant to attempt. The campers who experimented with new activities at camp were also often left with lasting impressions. In the same ACA survey, 63% of parents reported their child continued new activities following camp.
Learning Life-Long Lessons!

GPS Summer Camp is much more than arts and crafts, entertaining songs, and water play. Our entire summer camp experience is full of teachable moments. Children strengthen their communication skills and learn how to navigate relationships. They also become more independent as they develop new skills and grow in self-confidence. Camp provides many wonderful opportunities for teamwork, collaboration and problem-solving.
Making Forever Friends!

GPS Summer Camp is the perfect place to strengthen existing friendships and meet new people. Summer camp offers a special type of community – it’s a place of learning, laughing, growing, and celebrating. The relaxed nature of summer camp often makes it easier for children to feel comfortable and form new friendships. It is also a fantastic time to reconnect with old friends and create special memories. An old scouting song may have said it best, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”


Golden Pond School – GamesParents often ask us what activities they can do at home to compliment the skills their children are learning at Golden Pond School. Playing games is a wonderful way to spend time together and games have excellent learning opportunities. You are helping your child become more self-confident, strengthen executive functioning skills and how to enjoy playing with others.

Check our our GPS teacher-approved games for your next Family Game Night!


  • Skills: Fine Motor Skills, Colors, Counting, Shapes
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Thinkfun Roll
    • Play, Move and Groove
  • No purchase required:
    • Numbers Laundry Sort (find 2 items then toss in the basket)
    • Color Scavenger Hunt (find an item in your house of each color)


  • Skills: Three Step Directions, Focus
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
    • Tell Me a Story
    • Spot It Jr.
    • Kids On Stage
  • No purchase required!:
    • Follow the Leader (2 Hand Claps, 3 Shoulder Shrugs, 1 Eye Blink)
    • What’s Missing? (arrange 4-6 objects on a tray, cover eyes, take one away, ask What’s Missing?!)


  • Skills: Executive Functioning, Flexibility of Mind
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Zingo
    • Zingo 1-2-3
    • The Ladybug Game
    • Hiss
    • Memory
  • No purchase required:
    • Red Light, Green Light (switch the meaning of Red to Go and Green to Stop to keep the game challenging)
    • Tic-Tac-Toe
    • Create your own Scavenger Hunt

AGE 5:

  • Skills: Problem Solving, Extending the length of an activity with continued success.
  • Game Suggestions:
    • Jenga
    • Kerplunk
    • Sequence
    • Qwirkle
    • Rat a Tat Cat
    • Zip Zap
  • No purchase required: 
    • Number Obstacle Course – Use yarn and secure to chairs to create a “laser effect” obstacle course. Clip number cards on the strings. Find matching numbers, find specific number bonds like all of the ways to make 9 or come up with your own math obstacle fun!
    • Grocery Store Memory – “I went to the store and bought…” Each person names something beginning with the next letter of the alphabet while also remembering all of the items said before.

Self-Control in Young Children

The latest and most relevant findings point to the conclusion that a child’s level of self-control can be nurtured and developed by the important adults in the child’s life. It has also been learned that early self-control skills lead to long-term success in academic and social areas. We love this article on self-control, and 9 ways you can help your child develop greater self-control:


Can Self Control Be Taught:

Did you realize that the level of a young child’s self-control is considered to be an accurate indicator of that child’s later academic success? New and interesting research has come to the forefront recently showing a direct correlation between the level of a child’s self-control and their current and future academic success. In fact, it is now being argued that self-regulation is as important for academic success as intelligence. Studies have followed children over time, revealing that higher levels of self-control predict more positive outcomes years later. Higher teacher ratings of self-control in preschool, for example, are related to stronger math and language skills in kindergarten. And self-control in first grade is related to reading achievement in third grade. Obviously, young children lack the self-control of adults or even older children. Self-control develops over the years, with some of the biggest changes happening between the ages of 3-7. So, can we foster the development of self-discipline? Can self-control be taught? Recently, there have been numerous experimental studies that suggest that parents and teachers can have a profound effect on the development of a child’s self-control. We decided to pull together some of the more pertinent information on this topic to share with our faculty and staff and thought that you, as a parent, might also find it useful.

Here are a few of the most effective ways for helping children learn self-control.

1) Nurture trust between the adult and the child. The foundation of self-control is trust. Adults who are responsive to a child’s needs foster trust. In the earliest days of life, when a hungry infant wakes up crying and a caregiver picks him up and feeds him, he learns to trust that food will come. Every time he’s soothed, his brain strengthens the neural pathways to calm anxiety and regulate emotions, which will eventually allow him to comfort himself. As trust is developed, a child learns that every need or desire does not have to be addressed immediately. Simultaneously, patience and self-control are being developed.

2) Young children take their cues from us. When a toddler climbs too high, gets frightened, and wants to come down, how do you respond? If you can guide her down, speaking calmly, you are teaching her self-control. She is again creating the brain pathways needed to talk herself through difficult situations in the future. The child is learning to regulate herself to make rational decisions. The majority of our decision making abilities are found in the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is barely developed in a three year old and does not reach maturity until the age of twenty-five but is strengthened each time the child controls her impulses.

3) Create an environment where self-control is consistently rewarded. You have likely heard of the famous “marshmallow test”. Preschoolers were given the choice between eating one treat now or two treats later, and the children who demonstrated the greatest capacity to wait ended up, in subsequent years, with better outcomes. They performed better on academic tests, had parental reports of better social skills, and were more likely to finish college. When researcher, Celeste Kidd, revisited the findings of this study, she found herself wondering how much depended on a child’s expectations. As a child, if experiences have taught you that adults don’t keep their promises, or that institutions don’t enforce fair allocations of rewards, why would you wait patiently for a hypothetical prize? Kidd tested this idea in a landmark experiment and the results bore her out. It only took a couple of disappointments to undermine children’s willingness to delay gratification. Subsequent studies confirm that our willingness to wait depends on how we weigh the risks and benefits.

4) Support young children with timely reminders. It’s hard to stick with a program if you don’t remember the rules, and young children have more trouble keeping our directions in mind. They are easily distracted. So it’s helpful to remind young children about our expectations. In recent experiments, by Jane and Yuko Munakata, three year olds were asked to perform a simple task requiring impulse control. The children were given these directions, “Open a box to get a prize, but only after you’ve been given the correct signal. If you see a blue square, that means go ahead and take the prize. If you see a red triangle, that means leave the box alone.” The researchers tested two different approaches to coach the children for the task and found one approach was clearly superior. When an adult reminded the children of the rules just before each trial, the children were more likely to control their impulses and follow the directions. By contrast, giving the children a few seconds to stop and think, without any reminders, did not have the same effect. This study confirms that giving children specific instructions and clearly stating your expectations frequently and especially right before an activity will increase a child’s chances of success.

5) Play games that help children practice self-control. Any time we ask children to play a game by the rules, we’re encouraging them to develop self-control. For instance, take the traditional game, “Red Light, Green Light.” When a child hears the words, “Green light!” he moves forward. When he hears the words, “Red light!” he must freeze. In its classic form, the game is about following directions. But with an added twist, the game can be more challenging. Once the children know the game, reverse the colors. Make “red light” the cue to go and “green light” the cue to stop. Now the game will test a child’s ability to go against habit. He must inhibit his impulses, practicing what is known as self-regulation. Researchers, Shauna Tominey and Megan McClelland, wanted to know if playing such games would help children develop self-regulation and self-control. They measured the self-regulation skills of 65 preschool children, and then randomly assigned half of them to participate in a series of game sessions. The sessions featured the modified version of “Red Light, Green Light” and several other games designed to give children a selfregulation workout. (See Appendix A) The children in the study played the games twice weekly in sessions of 30 minutes each for 8 weeks. When re-assessed, the preschoolers who started with low self-regulation skills (below the 50th percentile) had markedly improved.

6) Instill a mindset for tackling challenges and learning from failure. Many people think of intelligence and talent as gifts that we inherit and cannot improve upon. When these people fail, they feel helpless and give up. By contrast, people who believe that effort shapes an outcome rather than pure intelligence and talent are more resilient. We can help children develop this sort of resilience and determination by being careful with our feedback. Experiments show that offering praise for general traits (“You’re so smart!”) make children adopt the wrong mindset. So does general criticism (“I’m disappointed in you.”) What works better is praise for effort, and feedback that encourages children to try different strategies. (“Can you think of another way to do it?” or “You worked really hard on that, well done!”)

7) Teach children to come when they are called. It seems like a simple idea but it can be a powerful tool for helping children learn selfcontrol. When an adult calls a child, that child should not yell, “What?” from across the house, classroom, or playground. Children can learn to come to the adult, in order, to have a dialog with the adult. This helps the child learn that self-control sometimes means that we must give up what we would like to be doing in order to do something else.

8) Use bed times to teach self-discipline. Some children have a difficult time going to bed without creating a battle so this becomes a great opportunity to teach self-discipline. After all, it requires a lot of self-control for a child to stay quietly in bed while their parents are still awake. Set a bedtime, develop a routine which covers all the necessary bed time tasks and work at getting your child to stay in bed without mom and dad falling asleep in their room. This requires work on the part of the parent but will pay tremendous dividends in the end.

9) Routines, chores, and family schedules are opportunities to learn responsibility and self-discipline. Responsibility can be defined as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. The rewards for being responsible are privileges. The child who is responsible to get ready and be at breakfast by 7:30am is allowed the privilege of staying up until their 8:00pm bedtime. Being able to choose one’s own clothes is the privilege for getting dressed before the deadline. Simple benefits of life are seen as privileges associated with basic responsibility. Most all parents, at some point, have tried to give their child an easier life than they had or make their child feel good even at the expense of building their character. Unfortunately, this often translates into more freedom and less self-control. It is wise to use childhood to prepare a child for future success and self-discipline is one of the most important character qualities a child can develop.

So, the good news is we can help children develop self-control. Since the brain is like a muscle, it strengthens throughout life, depending on how it is used. When we build trusting relationships with children, set firm limits, provide modeling, instruction, and opportunities to practice self-control, we help them develop this fundamental life skill. These early years are a critical time to build a strong foundation that will allow our children to have future academic and social success. As we know, the first five years really are forever!


Appendix A:

  • The Freeze Game: Children dance when the music plays and freeze when the music stops. Dance quickly for fast-tempo songs, slowly for slow tempo songs. Then reverse the cues and dance quickly to slow music and slowly to fast music.
  • Color-Matching Freeze: In this variation of the freeze game, children don’t just stop dancing when the music stops. First, they find a colored mat and stand on it. Then, before they freeze, they perform a special dance step. There are several, different colored mats on the floor, and each color is linked to a different dance step.
  • Conducting an Orchestra: Children play simple musical instruments (like maracas and bells). When an adult waves the “conductor’s baton”, the children increase their tempo when the baton moves quickly and reduce their tempo when the baton slow down. After a time, children are asked to reverse the tempo directions.
  • Drum Beats: An adult tell the children to respond to different drum cues with specific body movements. For example, children might hop when they hear a fast drum beat and crawl when they hear a slow drum beat. After a time, children are asked to reverse the cues.




GPS Kindergartners tour Washington D.C.!

Our Kindergartners don’t just learn about Washington D.C. – they experience it! The excitement is palpable as the charter bus crosses the Potomac and the children spot the monuments. There is nothing like visiting our nation’s capital city with our friends, parents and teachers. The highlight of this December day is always the private tour of the Capital Building which is a treasured memory for our Kindergarten families.

The monthly theme, Washington D.C., is creatively brought to life in the Kindergarten classrooms through centers and activities. Skip counting is especially fun when it is a photo puzzle of a monument. Fine Motor Skills and Reading are enforced with letter clothespins for completing sentences about The White House. Finding related words on Legos in a sensory bin to create sentences about the trip is an especially active way to teach language. And using a pulley system to find coins and identify images is always a favorite! 

The Golden Pond School Kindergarten curriculum has been designed to encompass all the conventional skills of literacy and math plus the increasingly essential skills of creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving. We ensure small class sizes combined with an assistant teacher to allow for individualized and specialized instruction. This program comes with the expectations of greater learning, higher test scores, and confident students. Our experience confirms that GPS Kindergarten students enter First Grade with a love of learning and a thirst for more knowledge!

Learn more about our Kindergarten program >