Four "Dignities" & Four Age Groups

There are three main classrooms at Alaya, each named after an animal from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition: Tigers (ages 2 & 3), Snow Lions (ages 3 & 4) and Garudas (ages 4 & 5). Garudas who return for summer camp before beginning Kindergarten are known as Dragons (age 5 & 6). The Buddhist teacher who co-founded Alaya – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche – called these "The Four Dignities" and used them as metaphors for stages on the path toward realizing our inherent goodness as human beings. Each ‘dignity’ points to certain characteristics a practitioner develops in order to bring wisdom and compassion into daily life:

  • Tigers are "meek" and are learning about contentment and discernment;

  • Snow Lions are "perky" and are learning about curiosity and discipline;

  • Garudas are "outrageous" and are learning about bravery and joy;

  • Dragons are "inscrutable" and are learning about wisdom and vastness.

Read on for more details regarding class sizes, teacher-student ratios and developmental readiness.


About Our 2-3 Year Old Tigers

This group of older toddlers has 9 children with 2 teachers in one large, spacious room organized with the children’s interests and developmental capabilities in mind. They also have a dedicated, enclosed outdoor play area arranged with age-appropriate play structures and materials. 6 children stay for the afternoon with 1 teacher between 1:30 & 3:30. Children entering this group in the fall generally need to be 2 years old by the end of September.

A gentle and individualized approach to beginning the journey of schooling

Tiger children are awakening, beginning to reach out and form friendships with each other, but they still need the security and comfort that a small group allows. The Alaya Tiger year is designed to provide high quality childcare for these very young children in a warm and nurturing small group setting. The focus is on providing our Tigers with the opportunity to begin their school experience with developmentally appropriate expectations and experiences. During their first year at Alaya, children develop social skills, language skills, self-help skills, large and small motor coordination, secure relationships with other children and adults and positive self-image in a rich, play-oriented environment. Attention is given to each child as a developing individual. Communication between parents and teachers is frequent and meaningful to provide an understanding of the whole child.

Establishing the teacher-student relationship with a home visit & gradual entry into the daily schedule

Home visits are made to Tiger homes in August so that the lead teacher can meet with children and their families in familiar surroundings. The first day is simply an open house with families and children attending for a block of time determined by the teachers. This gentle transition into the world of preschool honors the child’s need to process information in a concrete way and provides the opportunity for the young child to form a basic relationship of trust with his or her new caregivers. We believe that a gradual and compassionate transition period helps to relieve some of the separation problems that often present themselves in the first weeks of school. Some tenderness is expected in the first few weeks, especially for those who have not been in child care previously.  The teachers and office staff will work to support both the child and the family as they become members of the Alaya community.


About Our 3-4 Year Old Snow Lions

This is our younger preschool group. There are up to 14 children with 2-3 teachers, with most children staying for the afternoon (full day) as well. The Snow Lions' set of three connected classrooms introduces more complex activities and materials developmentally appropriate for this age group. Their large outdoor play yard is equipped with a "house", swings, slide and lookout tower, bikes and trikes, picnic tables, a huge sand pit and plenty of room to run. The Snow Lion children are in transition; they are no longer babies and the world and their relationships with each other are there for them to fully explore and discover.


About Our 4-5 Year Old Garudas

This is our older prekindergarten group. With several adjoining rooms to meet the needs of a group a little larger in size, this space reflects the needs of children who have many and varied interests. Garudas are generally old enough to go to kindergarten the following year. There are up to 18 children with 2-3 teachers with most children staying for the afternoon (full day). Garudas are building the foundation that will carry them into the world. The Garuda group is large enough for children to relate with each other in many types of situations and play, yet small enough to promote special friendships with classmates and teachers.

Garuda Rites of Passage

There are two very special annual events in the Garuda year: an overnight camp out at the school (usually in mid-May), and a graduation ceremony. For many children this overnight will be their first time sleeping away from their family, and is a monumental rite of passage for them on the cusp of their K-12 journeys. Garuda graduation is a very special occasion, which parents and teachers plan together and which honors the individual journey and accomplishments of each student.



The rhythm of the day is the discipline in which the young child’s work is given some predictability. This rhythm allows the children and their teachers to relax within the forms of their day. A child’s experience throughout the day at Alaya arises out of the following forms and rhythms:

  • Entering

  • Open play and cleaning up

  • Circle time

  • Snack time

  • Outdoor Play

  • Morning activity time

  • Lunch time

  • Departure time for half-day students

  • Tea + nap or rest time

  • Snack time

  • Open play and cleaning up

  • Departure time