We believe that learning best occurs when new concepts build upon each child's prior experiences. By accepting each child's experiences and drawing them into the curriculum we affirm their individual backgrounds and cultures which results in a tremendous increase in their self-confidence and self-esteem. This belief leads to a strong emphasis on family involvement both inside and outside the classrooms. Effective communication between parents and teachers builds a level of trust, comfort, and clarity within the school community.
All classrooms offer a variety of learning centers appropriately equipped for story-telling, block building, dramatic and pretend play, arts and crafts, manipulatives, sand and water play, science activities, and woodworking.
The daily schedule allows for both structured and unstructured experiences. The children are encouraged to make independent choices and work without restrictions, but within the basic framework of a clear set of rules.
The curriculum is not pre-determined but emerges out of the children's interests and play. Teachers then skillfully plan and design activities and projects that extend the children's play into deeper and more meaningful learning experiences. Opportunities are provided to each child for self-directed, experiential, and active learning. Teachers make every activity meaningful by accompanying it with talking, interacting, and posing open-ended questions. We emphasize process instead of product. Teachers are aware that the longer the child remains in the process stage, the deeper and more extensive is the learning experience.
Effective Language Development Strategies
We have a strong curricular focus on language development which accommodates all levels of language proficiency. Some of the languages spoken by the staff and children include: Spanish, Chinese, Persian, Nigerian, Korean, Italian, German, French, Russian, Icelandic, Portugese, and Hindi.
All children are encouraged to read by discovering meaning in pictures, symbols, and print. Teachers ensure the availability of a range of picture and story books in the reading area. Story telling and reading are also components of the daily schedule. Children are encouraged to talk about their feelings and dictate their thoughts and stories after an activity. Teachers write down these messages and display them on the walls for the children to re-visit their experiences and "read" what they had dictated. Children are also encouraged to write by assigning meaning to their own symbols through pretend writing and invented spellings. Thus, language development is reinforced across the spoken, written and visual dimensions.
Partnerships with local community entities provide additional resources to enrich our curriculum and create a bridge between the school and the real-life community in which the children live. Some of these partnerships include:
- A long-standing relationship with neighboring Teachers College and Bank Street College of Education which leads to optimal professional development opportunities for our teachers.
- Collaboration with The Manhattan School of Music through the invitation of student musicians to perform in our space and the children attending special musical events held at MSM.
- Weekday partners with several outside professional consultants who provide information about on-going schools, both public and private and who assist our teachers and families whose children present individual needs.
- Yet another community partnership that the children are involved in is with The Riverside Church Food Pantry, and they collect food for homeless families every year for Thanksgiving.