Fundraising for the New BNS Train is On Track!

As noted in a previous blog post, Bannockburn Nursery School is planning to replace its playground’s beautiful wooden train that, after twenty-five years of heavy use, is bound for the great roundhouse in the sky. In the weeks since BNS began to ask friends and neighbors to help Save the Train, over $5,000 has been raised, which will cover a significant portion of the new train. The fundraising efforts will continue this month with the nursery school’s Spring Fever Gala and Silent Auction at the clubhouse on March 19 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available at or at the door.

BNS is thrilled with the huge response and outpouring of community support so far. Ten current and alumni families have given at a level ($250 and above) that will have them featured on a dedication plaque to be installed with the new train. If you want to lend your support, visit the school’s website to Save the Train or mail or drop off a check to the school. As of now, BNS is on track to install its new wooden train this spring. All aboard for another twenty-five years of fun!

— Emily Parsons

Enacting one last great game on the great BNS train…



“What Draws Us Together”

Tonight, after we put the children down, with 2 feet of snow on the ground and not a plow in sight, I sent my husband on a trek through the neighborhood to meet a stranger on Massachusetts Ave to give them a can of baby formula.  A person, I don’t know, posted on a neighborhood listserv I don’t live in, about her baby with GI problems that was running out of formula and not able to find a store open with a very unique formula need.  If you have spoken with me over the past year, you know my daughter’s allergies have me eating a very specific diet for her every day, and in turn pumping 4 hours a day, since we never were able to find a formula she could eat.  It’s a huge sacrifice but I know how scary it can be when your baby needs to eat and there is nothing you can do while you watch them scream in pain from the formula you are giving them.  So, of course, I had time and a stock pile of unused formula for this stranger.  I couldn’t ignore their desperate plea.  I’ve been there.

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all been a parent desperate for a solution, for help, for compassion, for love.  You know the acute ache you feel when you see your child struggle as you fight for a solution.  Whether it’s as simple as a bully on a playground or as complex as a life threatening disease, you would do anything to make life perfection for your child.  This is what draws us together.  We’ve all been there.  That’s our common denominator.

This brings me to my favorite topic.  My work this year as the philanthropy chair on the board for BNS.  Before I continue, I just would like to let you know that I plan on staying at BNS for the next 4 years so, before you get any ideas, the position is mine.  I say this because, I have a pretty cushy role.  I see people in need and I immediately get to say, “I know people who can help.  How can we help you?”  My husband says I have developed an addiction to helping people.  I’ll accept that vice.  You know how helping someone, like opening the door for someone, immediately makes you feel good?  You should try helping large groups of people over and over and over again.  I feel fantastic and, trust me, between the teething baby and the amped up preschooler I never sleep and pumping/bottle cleaning 4 hours a day is no picnic either.

In September, I went to my weekly pick up of CSA fruits and vegetables at Norman’s Farmers Market here in Bethesda.  My trunk was overflowing with shoes for Rukundo International and a stroller for the baby.  I open the trunk to get the stroller and shoes come pouring out on the parking lot.  I finally shove everything in and walk up to sign in for my CSA.  The ladies working there gently tease me about my messy car.  I then take the opportunity to tell them how wonderful our nursery school is and how my car is full of over 350 pairs of smelly old shoes for families in Africa.  That is when one of the ladies bends down and unties her sneakers and hands me her still warm old smelly sneakers.  Why?  Because like all of us who know the desperation of just losing one of our children’s shoes vs the struggle of not being able to provide shoes for them at all, she’s been there.  She can imagine that struggle.  On some level, we’ve all been there.  Our BNS community’s kindness spread to her.

The day school ended for winter break, I picked my son up and loaded my car up with the last of the Salvation Army Angel items.  I took both kids up to an industrial area in Germantown and dropped the items off with a nice lady and 3 shopping carts at the Salvation Army drop off center.  The best part?  The level of shock registered on her face as she said, “This is all for 3 children?!  You outdid yourselves!”  Of course we did.  How easy is it to imagine not having the ability to give your own children gifts or even a jacket?  How easy is it to step into these parents’ shoes and imagine their desire to give their children the world?  We have the same desires.  As parents, we’ve all been there.

I don’t know about you but once the children are down, I have time every night for about one 30 minute recorded segment of the NBC Nightly News before my attention span is lost.  Once December rolled in, I saw seemingly nightly heart wrenching segments on Syrian refugee families that if I didn’t do something fast, I would not forgive myself.  I was unable to get the thought of mothers and fathers carrying small children hundreds of miles in all elements of weather to get them to safety.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how these parents would risk their lives, their homes, their own children’s lives to get their children to safety.  It was such an easy decision to collect for Carry the Future.  When I decided to move forward, I emailed a bunch of people I know who might be interested in collecting carriers too.  Together, we were about to collect 14 carriers for Carry the Future.  To be honest, I thought the number was pretty lackluster.  I dropped the carriers (and snacks) off at a drop off point in Bethesda.  I immediately got a note from the organization.  We were one of their top collectors in the area that month.  I see a dad every afternoon at BNS pick up carry his baby in a carrier as he picks up his two boys at BNS.  Just like all of us, he too has been there.  There are never enough hands for all that you must carry except our items are groceries or sibling hands.  We can imagine what it’s like.  We’ve been there.

Whether it is donating non-perishable food for Westland Middle School’s food pantry or pajamas for children in the foster care system, I know that the BNS family is ready and willing to give and support families that struggle.  In this melting pot of a city, it is often hard to find someone like yourself.  However, we are all the common denominator as we give and spread kindness through our shared connection of “being there.”

To take it all full circle, we, as parents, have all been there in some way or other to understand struggle, need, and want.   We are able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and know that we need to help.  What we want in our children is for them never to have to feel “been there” but to have the compassion and empathy to know when to help and have everlasting kindness.  I hope to teach my children this lesson through leading through example.  By including my children in bringing in and selecting pajamas, toys, or coins to help someone in need, I am able to take each moment as an opportunity to not only explain to my children about other’s struggles but also teach them to appreciate and value the blessings they have with humility.

For those of you who have donated and/or lent a hand, thank you for “being there” with me.  This has certainly been a rewarding experience.

–Jenny O’Brien, BNS Philanthropy Chair



BNS Train

The BNS Train’s Next Stop

The beautiful wooden train in the Bannockburn Nursery School’s playground has been transporting children to wherever their imaginations take them for more than twenty-five years. That’s a lot of trips to the country, the beach, the moon!

Current BNS parent Sara Williams has the unique privilege of watching her daughter enjoy the same train today that she rode when she was a child. Says Sara, “Every time I pull into the parking lot and see that train, memories come flooding back about my childhood and many days spent out on that playground pretending to be a conductor or making believe that I was on a trip to the moon. Seeing Sammie on the train at BNS, in the same neighborhood I grew up in, provides an amazing sense of continuity across multiple generations. I feel very lucky that we get to experience something as special as this.”

The train at BNS is so beloved because it stimulates children’s imaginations in a way that a standard climbing structure doesn’t. It demands the question, Where will we go next? But after twenty-five years, the thousands of trips for hundreds of Bannockburn children have taken their toll. The oft-repaired slats can no longer be secured.

As part of the school’s current fundraising drive, they are asking people in the BNS family as well as in the larger Bannockburn community to help Save the Train. Once the designated funds are raised, the plan is to rebuild the train as it is–a structure that adults (i.e. former children) will recognize, current children will love, and that will last the community another generation.

If you would like to help Save the Train, donations can be mailed to the school or made via the website, at And if you have any information about the history of the train or memories you’d like to share, email

— by Emily Parsons

BNS Train Juliette
BNS blog work party 2

What is a BNS Work Party??

A co-operative preschool is a community effort.  Parents fill many of the roles from assisting in the classroom to raising funds to serving on the board.  Twice a year BNS asks parents to come together and contribute to maintaining the school and the grounds.   Parents do this either by contributing labor or funds through a buy out.  Their efforts benefit not only the school, but also the wider community that lives around the school.

The 2015 Fall work party brought together a wonderful group of people to attend to tasks as small as lengthening the cords on the light switches in the Acorns classroom to as heavy as moving and distributing new sand on the sand boxes and weeding the play grounds.

Every year the work party reveals new challenges.  This year we had to disable the very popular tire swing, and the even more popular train in the front playground is reaching the end.  Rumor has it that exciting plans for both structures may be announced before the end of the year.

Very many thanks to everyone who supported BNS through either donating labor or buying out!

BNS Open House 2015

BNS November Open House… more than an open house, a glimpse into cooperative preschool education

As BNS Membership Chair, I have the privilege of meeting so many wonderful families and getting to know our BNS members right from the start. I am struck by the passion that is evident in each family, all of whom share the aim of providing a quality preschool experience for our children. BNS families truly understand the value of community and the impact the cooperative spirit can have. They embrace the cooperative experience, one in which parents both participate in the classroom and in the operation of the school, working together with the staff and teachers to offer a supportive learning experience.

If you or someone you know is interested in a cooperative preschool please stop by our upcoming Open House this coming Monday, November 2 from 10-11:30am.  Bring your kids and tour the classrooms, meet the teachers, talk to parents and learn more about our play-based cooperative preschool. We will begin accepting applications for the 2016-17 school year.

If you have questions, please contact: Membership Chair, Eileen Reyna @ or Director, Angie Zeidenberg @ 301-320-4252. Visit us on the web at www.bannockburnnurseryschool. com

— Eileen Reyna, BNS Membership Chair

BNS Rummage Aladdin

Rummage 2015 by the Numbers

1/2 Tank of gas used just in the Bannockburn neighborhood to transport furniture for sale
1 Proustian yellow French villa
1 Neon pink Taj Mahal
1 Mint-green vintage travel jewelry case any BNSer could have taken on a Pan Am flight to Cuba in 1955
1 + 1 One anniversary and one birthday celebrated while sorting items, drinking beverages, and getting ready for Rummage
2 Silver Horse Show trophies from 1963
3 Stuffed animals sold that were larger than your average four-year old
4 Tables just for toys
11 Fully loaded tables total
25+ People in line by 9 AM
33 Volunteers
323 Volunteer hours
7:15 AM First people in line
5:00 PM Last pick-up
One word to sum it all up… THANKS to everyone who worked or donated for the Rummage and to our community for a great day of browsing, chatting, catching up, coffee-ing and scone-ing the bake sale, supporting our school, having fun, and rummaging, thank you!!
BNS Co-op

Why a Co-Op

It’s the start to another fantastic school year at BNS, where the parents, children and staff all work and play together. The cooperative spirit is apparent – even before school begins.

The summer play dates kept everyone connected and provided a wonderful opportunity for new families to get to know each other. The teachers invited their new students to come into the classroom before the beginning of school so that they would feel more comfortable on that first day. The Board of Directors and staff were busy preparing for the new school year, even during the summer months. The parents came to Unpacking Day willing to work and learn all about their child’s classroom and school. Even though it’s only been a few days, the co-oping parents have already spent precious hours pushing swings, playing with toys, wiping noses, washing hands, providing snack… all for our BNS children.

Some people might wonder why in the world anyone would choose to join a co-op school, when you spend so much of your valuable time volunteering while your child is in and out of school. What they might not understand is just how much you actually benefit.

There are many things that parents can get out of the co-op experience. Some of these include:

  • The unique opportunity to get to know each and every child in the classroom.
  • While working and playing with the children, parents become familiar with age appropriate activities and behaviors.
  • Parents learn how to teach problem solving skills .
  • Parents can pick up new parenting skills from the teacher and other parents.
  • The busy parent has a chance to stop and appreciate the young child’s mind.
  • The classroom experience essentially helps parents to become better connected to their own child at home.
  • Parents can ask thought provoking questions to their child at home, since they know the routines and classmates.
  • Parents gain the confidence to be an advocate for their child’s education – even later on in the elementary, middle and high school level.
  • Parents realize how many ways they can contribute to their child’s education.

Another perk to the cooperative nursery school experience is the long lasting friendships that are made between the parents.  Everyone is working together for a common goal. The parents really learn to trust each other.  This is especially comforting for the parent who leaves a reluctant child at school. Parents will often find the time to socialize with each other outside of school and they look forward to these grown-up only “play dates”. These friendships often get even stronger later in life.

Fortunately, many families still hold these core values and make an effort to become a part of their child’s early education. Although it would be a lot easier to drop off your child at a “regular” preschool, the benefits are too good to pass up, and the investment will end up paying substantial dividends.

— by Angie Zeidenberg, Administrative Director

Glen Echo Carousel

Out and About in September

The kids may be back to school but it’s not all pumpkin spice and tweed just yet.  Calendar aside, September still feels a lot like summer and there are plenty of things to do that take advantage of the warm days and sunshine.

The Glen Echo Fire Department holds its annual bingo night fundraiser at Glen Echo Park on Friday, September 13 – a tradition since the 1930s.  All ages are welcome and there will be prizes appropriate for all ages. There’s a suggested donation of $5 for all bingo cards, and all proceeds benefit the volunteer fire department.

Go for one final ride on the Dentzel carousel at Glen Echo Park’s Then and Wow! Festival on Sept 27.  The festival brings back some of the old midway vibe of the park, with magic shows, juggling, and arcade games. Then on Oct. 3, Taste of Bethesda brings out more than 50 restaurants and five stages of entertainment to Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle.

Everyone knows it’s too hot for armor and velvet cloaks in the middle of summer, so the Maryland Renaissance Festival is appropriately timed for cooler weather.  The long-running festival is open weekends through Oct. 25, in Crownsville, Maryland, near Annapolis.

Montgomery County’s fair was in August, but don’t despair; you still have plenty of opportunities to enjoy fried dough, prize heifers and attractive produce.  In fact, you could go to a different Maryland county fair nearly every weekend in September, if that’s your thing. The Prince George’s County Fair is Sept. 10-13 in Upper Marlboro; Anne Arundel County Fair is Sept. 16-20 in Crownsville; Charles County Fair is Sept. 17- 20 in La Plata; Great Frederick Fair is Sept. 18-26 in Frederick; and Calvert County Fair is Sept. 30-Oct. 4 in Prince Frederick.

WalkingTown DC takes place Sept. 19-27, offering dozens of walking tours around the city. These tours go way beyond the basics: one tour leaves the crowds of M Street behind and explores Herring Hill and the working-class neighborhoods and alleys around Georgetown. Another tour goes deep into the Capitol grounds, looking at Frederick Law Olmsted’s designs and the Capitol’s plants, terraces, brick summerhouse, stone and ironwork, views and circulation paths. Tours vary in length and rigor; check the website and find a tour that fits.

Finally, mark your calendars for Oct. 2, the Bannockburn Family Film Fest at the Bannockburn Clubhouse.  Outdoor short films under the stars, an epic bake sale, food trucks, and a raffle, and you can walk home.  Always a fun night and proceeds benefit Bannockburn Nursery School.

By Angela Hirsch

** Photo via Glen Echo Park website **

Walt Disney Castle

Top Examples of How BNS is the Smallest World in the Most Awesome Way

Mickey and Minnie had it right, it is a small world after all… and at BNS, kids and parents alike never need to go anywhere without seeing a friendly face, as these top examples of how BNS is the smallest world in the most awesome way will demonstrate…

#6… You go to the grocery store and run into at least two other people from BNS.

#5… You drop your elementary-school age kid off at a new summer camp, and who does he hang out with on the first day? Other BNS grads (now all at different elementary schools and very happy to see each other in a sea of new faces).

#4… Your neighbor, whose son just graduated from college, is a BNS graduate.

#3… You go to the neighborhood pool, and your kids disappear with a pack of friends, new and old time BNSers (now at different schools).

#2… You drop your kid off for his first day of Kindergarten… with four classmates from BNS in his class.

#1… You are at a swanky party at one of those rooftop venues in DC, talking to a wonderful older lady, and when you mention to her that you live in Bannockburn, she tells you that her children’s fondest childhood memories are of BNS, “there is something about that place, they still talk about it…”

Let’s make this a Top Ten or more… what are favorite examples where BNS was a small world??

Photo credit:  ShajiA at the Wikipedia Project

BNS blog daffodils

Springtime and the Community Spirit at BNS

This has been the month for our community to socialize, share, and shop at Bannockburn Nursery School, starting off March with the Rummage Sale and ending with the Spring Fever auction.

A few days before the BNS Bazaar/Rummage Sale, families from the community share and donate their gently and/or not so gently used items.  This is always an exciting time to not only see the huge bags and boxes of household items, clothes, toys, games, books, baby tear, and everything else under the sun being donated for the sale, but it also a time to reunite and catch up with old friends and families who have been a part of the school and/or community for many years.  It is a time that we all come together to support each other once again.

On the actual sale day, there are quite a few people who venture into the community for the sole purpose of getting a bargain.  You will find the professional rummagers peeking into the windows and lining up two or three hours before the doors open.  However, once the regular rummagers have made their way through the sale, the locals start coming out in droves to see friends and neighbors and perhaps to see what bargains are still available.  This is a time when you observe neighbors shopping, laughing, and mingling with each other.  Of course, they also come to grab a muffin or two and a cup of coffee from our famous BNS Bake Sale.

Then we gear up for the next shopping extravaganza.  A few weeks before the school auction, solicitations are sent out to local businesses and families start thinking of ways they can contribute.  It is a fun time to check the mail.  Restaurants, families, and other local businesses often respond generously.

On March 27th, the party date has finally arrived and the Bannockburn Nursery School families have the opportunity to shop for higher-end things at the BNS Spring Fever Fundraiser and Auction.  This was an evening when current and past BNS families came together in a festive atmosphere to eat, drink, and be merry while shopping and socializing together.  The donations included themed baskets, children’s artwork, classes for children and parents, outings for children and parents, as well as a lot of dining and other fun services.

No doubt, the Bannockburn Nursery School community has found fun ways to enjoy each other’s company while supporting their favorite nursery school!

— Angie Zeidenberg, Director, BNS