92 Street Y Nursery: A Comprehensive
Learning Program For Youngsters
not surprising that so many parents of pre-school age children
vie competitively in pursuit of sending their kids to the 92nd
Street Y nursery school. Housed on the premises of the great
92 St. Y cultural center, the pre-school boasts the resources of the organization and has
features such as three outdoor playgrounds, with soft-cushioned
floors, with one playground having a special protective roof.
But this is just a part of what makes this pre-school a treasure
for youngsters, their parents, and the staff.
Nancy Schulman, Director of the nursery school, stated in
a recent interview in her office, the quality of teachers
at the Y is a cornerstone of the pre-school: master teachers
with 25 years of teaching experience strive to “pass
teaching on to the next generation of teachers.”
There is a
sense of camaraderie among staff and students, with everyone,
including program directors, being addressed on a first name
basis. Even the security guards contribute to the sense of
having an extended family at pre-school as they heartily greet
students each morning, sometimes providing treats such as stickers
intergenerational program started by Ellen Birnbaum, Associate
Director, 92nd Street Y, generation gaps are melted away as
seniors, 60 and over, interact with the nursery school aged
children. Seniors share their childhood memories, engage in
block play, and one senior is even teach favorite hobbies,
such as tai chi.
With the walls of the school lined with children’s artistic creations,
such as art work in Jackson Pollock style, colorful candle
holders, and drawings of faces, the pre-school is warm and
welcoming to the young students, and illustrative of its
mission to educate children, emotionally and intellectually,
within the framework of an environment of warmth and creativity.
The program hosts 175 students, ages 2½ through five years olds,
with a teacher/student ratio of about 4 to 1. A dynamic team
approach is used by teacher groups for each respective class,
with regular discussions on what teaching approaches have
proven successful in the classroom.
is multi-dimensional and multi-sensory, involving lively student
participation. Examples of lesson plans include using pumpkins
to learn about circumference and the development of scientific
hypotheses. Three year olds were asked whether the pumpkin
would float when placed in a large pool of water, and actively
engaged in this experiment. Finally children learned culinary
skills as they baked pumpkin seeds. Mathematical concepts and
art go hand in hand as children colorfully graph different
phenomenon, such as the number of times the temperature was
cold versus mild in a particular week.
A major component
of teaching at the pre-school is fostering independence and
self-confidence, such as having children learn to put their
coats on by themselves or pour their own beverages. The moral
development of children is bolstered through teaching the concept
of Mitzvot—good deeds—which are summarized on index
cards with specific examples of students engaging in kind behavior,
such as “David held the drawer open for Sam.”
Enrichment programs at the pre-school program include music sessions
with a specialist in the field as well as science studies
with a teacher referred to as professor. There is a
rich array of after school programs available for youngsters—some
even coordinated with dismissal time—that range from
pottery to dance, music, gym and sports.
that learning at the nursery school must be reinforced and
complemented outside of school, special programs are available
for parents and caregivers.
The parenting center, launched in 1979 is open to all parents—even
those who do not have children enrolled in the pre-school
and recently a program for caregivers was launched. These
programs are in addition to regular parent-teacher conferences.
Children with special needs are integrated into the program at the pre-school.
In-service programs are available such as psychologists and
occupational therapists, and referrals are made to programs
such as the Child Study Center at New York University, when
overall is an ideal center to meet the moral, academic, and
cultural growth of the child, a center where teachers and parents
partner in taking an active role in the process.
about major changes at the school during her 16 year tenure,
Schulman spoke about the complicated lives that children and
their fast track parents live, often overwhelmed and exhausted.
Parents need more guidance today: they are bombarded with information
and have lost contact with extended families. Children need
to develop more self-confidence and competence
in order to take risks and learn.
and Birnbaum at the helm, children will continue to flourish
and grow; and they will continue to return to visit years later,
as so many do, the roots of their early success.#