“The landscape of childhood is the one that remains in your soul.”



Charlestown Playhouse was founded in 1936 when Elizabeth Foster Stonorov, fondly known as “Miss Betty,” began gathering children for a playgroup at her home. When she decided to start her own school she wanted it to be a community where everyone worked together and supported each other. Charlestown Playschool was a “village” many years before that ever became a buzz word and the co-operative aspect of our program is our founder’s legacy.

In 1938, Miss Betty and her husband Oskar Stonorov bought the current building, an old church that was re-designed for play and community-gathering by Stonorov, a noted modernist architect. The iconic oak tree with its tire swing, visible from most classrooms, anchors a natural play yard where children are as apt to explore the woods as they are to play in the sand.

Miss Betty was educated at the Bank Street School in New York in the 1930s, which formed the foundation for her knowledge of early childhood education. She was also highly influenced by developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, a personal friend. From the beginning, Miss Betty attracted experts in the field of young children’s education. People were drawn to her and her program, which emphasized community involvement, an educational philosophy based on creative play with real materials, and age-appropriate social and emotional development. “We believe Playschool can be a first step toward helping to build citizens who will one day be able to take their place with confidence, joy, and love in our democracy,” she wrote. Charlestown Playhouse was built to be a nurturing and stimulating environment where children become creative, independent, self expressive, and self-confident individuals.

Miss Betty remained active at the school until shortly before her death in 2003. Playschool is still inspired by her philosophy of play, her skill in organizing community involvement, and her warmth of spirit.

Read a statement of Miss Betty's "Philosophy" here.

Stories with Miss Jean

In 2017, Charlestown Playhouse celebrated Miss Jean's 75 years of dedication to the playschool community. In this video, Miss Jean shares her memories of meeting Miss Betty and how she began working at the school, and talks about the play-based philosophy that is the heart of this school.

You can help keep Miss Jean's legacy alive by donating to this incredible community! Donate to Charlestown Playhouse. Stories with Miss Jean // Charlestown Playhouse // Two Thousand Seventeen by Danielle Cesare

2017 Video

This video, also made in 2017 for the Auction, showcases the spirit of Playschool and touches on its origins and philospohy.

We are Helpers // Charlestown Playhouse // by Danielle Cesare

2024 Architectural History Presentation

Learn more about Oskar Stonorov and the architectural and cultural history of Playschool.

Architectural History Presentation May 9, 2024/ Jim Garrison, Michael Toste, Allegra Churchill, Angie Foster, Tasha Stonorov