Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School

A nonprofit organization

For over 60 years, we have educated young children in a nurturing, play-based environment and engaged families in a supportive community. We want to extend our legacy to the next generation of young children in Colorado Springs. Will you partner with us?


"Young children are allowed to be joyous, exuberant, silly, fearful, active, shy, boisterous, curious…not in the sense that anything goes, but in the sense of understanding and valuing young children and their characteristics."
- RWCNS Director, 1985-2003

"Ruth Washburn graduates enter kindergarten with self-confidence and an unequaled zest for learning. Their enthusiasm for discovery is delightful as is their willingness to take on new challenges that come along with being in a kindergarten classroom."
- Local kindergarten teacher

"Play taught my now 8-year-old to negotiate, collaborate and solve problems on his own. This skill is recognized continuously by his elementary school teachers."
- 6-year veteran Ruth Washburn parent

"RWCNS is exactly the type of place I want my daughter to be when she's not at home with me; a place where she's free to create and explore, a place where positive peer relationships are fostered, and a place where the curriculum honors her age and meets her developmental needs."
- Current parent



Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School (RWCNS) is a nonprofit preschool dedicated to educating and nurturing children in an enriching play-based environment and engaging families in a supportive community.


At RWCNS we value:

• The nursery school years as unique and important;

• A "whole child" approach to early childhood education wherein emotional, physical, social, and cognitive needs are equally significant;

• Equitable learning opportunities that are tailored to each child's needs;

• An inclusive school environment that embraces diversity;

• Child-directed learning that happens organically in enriched environments;

• Our role as leaders in early childhood education; and

• Families and their contributions to classrooms and the school community.

We embody these values by:

• Trusting the nursery school model, knowing that developmentally-appropriate play is the best preparation for future schooling;

• Encouraging children to choose and direct their own work by providing engaging materials, open-ended opportunities, outdoor exploration, and interactions with peers;

• Attending to emotional, physical, social, and cognitive needs with equal care and attention;

• Modeling caring interactions that teach children to identify and meet their own needs;

• Hosting professional development and sharing best practices with the early education community;

• Embracing the cooperative community model to provide the richest, most caring environment possible for children and their families; and

• Providing ongoing opportunities for family education and support.


• Ruth Washburn: Dr. Washburn was an acclaimed child psychologist and the aunt of our school's founder.

• Cooperative: Including families as part of the school benefits everyone.

• Nursery: We honor the child's stage at this moment in time.

• School: Incredible learning takes place every day through play.

Background Statement

Sixty years ago, a remarkable woman named Miriam Emery Howbert founded the Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School.

A dynamic leader and imaginative educator, Miriam Howbert not only started the school, she also led its expansion from its beginnings in Jean and Gerry Jones' home to its present location on the west side of Colorado Springs.

Miriam "Minnow" Emery was born on October 25, 1923, in Denver, Colorado. Her childhood nickname was Minnow, and it stayed with her throughout her life. She earned her professional certificate from the Boston Nursery Training school, now the Eliot-Pearson Child Study Center at Tufts University. She taught nursery school in Denver, and later in Dobbs Ferry, New York, after she and her family moved there in 1950. The family returned to Colorado in 1961, where she decided to start her own school with the help of parents eager to have their children benefit from her wisdom and experience.

The school is named after Minnow's aunt. Dr. Ruth Washburn was a child psychologist and pioneer in the field of child development whose philosophy of child-rearing and education had inspired Minnow's own. An Assistant Professor of Child Development at Yale University and published author, Dr. Washburn believed that children learn best when given a choice of activities which allow for self-directed play in an atmosphere of respect for their ideas and feelings. In her lifetime, Dr. Washburn often visited Colorado Springs from Boston to offer her guidance and help to both parents and teachers.

In 1973, twelve years after its inception as a group of seven families, the school relocated from Jean and Gerry Jones' residence to its present location on 19th Street. Sited on just over two acres, the building and beautiful outdoor space have undergone several remodels and expansions over the years. Two Colorado College art students designed the spacious, natural environment that is now the playground. In 1990, contributions in Minnow's memory made possible an extensive renovation, which included the addition of Minnow's Room, a much-used gathering area for parents and children. After many years of strategic planning and through fundraising and grants from generous donors, the school undertook an expansion project which was completed in 2004. Much of the work of remodeling, landscaping, and maintaining our building and space has been accomplished through the voluntary contributions of parents.

Until her retirement in 1977, Minnow worked diligently to make Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School a model for child development. Her insistence on the involvement of the parents was, of course, critical to the success of the school, since their dedication and hard work have helped make it what it is today.

Minnow died in 1989 at the age of sixty-five, leaving behind a legacy of successful child rearing that continues almost six decades after she began Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School.

Organization Data


Organization name

Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School

other names


Year Established


Tax id (EIN)




Organization Size

Medium Organization

Colorado State Tax Credits

Colorado Child Care Credit


914 N. 19th Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904

Service areas

El Paso County, CO, US





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