The expansion of PreK for All provides an opportunity for all children in New York City to grow in a quality school setting.
Over the last 80 years at the Amalgamated Nursery School, we have found that children do best when they’re involved in collaborative, hands-on projects. When curriculum is designed and approached in this way, children have opportunities to learn math, literacy, social studies and science, and they create art in engaging, relevant and enjoyable ways.
They also work together, share ideas and develop social/emotional skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
For example, one recent project at the nursery school that guided the children’s learning for about two months was the study of pancakes. Children discussed how to make them, where to buy the ingredients (at the local supermarket, of course), and then discovered the original source of each ingredient.
The children made fresh butter, ground wheat berries into flour, planted wheat, and visit a sugar maple tree in Van Cortlandt Park where the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park — who later helped the children plant two new sugar maples in the park — showed them how maple syrup is made.
Toward the end of the project, the children studied eggs in an embryology project where they incubated them and hatched chicks in our classrooms.
Simultaneous with these activities, the children react to relevant books and draw pictures of what they see and imagine. While they begin to build their vocabularies, they also measure, count, categorize and sort.
Of course, the children also are bridging a connection to their neighborhood with the various field trips to local stores, Van Cortlandt Park, and the garden in our “tire park.” Then they recreate these events in the dramatic play area, strengthening their understanding, cooperative skills, language development and communication skills.
Cooking and preparing several varieties of pancakes also allows children to watch actual chemical changes, use their motor skills, express their likes and dislikes, and experiment with pancake recipes from different cultures.
Finally, at the end of their study, the children hosted a spring pancake celebration and art show with their families. The event was an opportunity to celebrate and share the work and learning the children accomplished, which of course includes eating pancakes together.
We believe learning in this manner allows children to accomplish all the current PreK for All Common Core learning standards, while being deeply involved in their learning and connecting with the community.
At Amalgamated Nursery School, they are interested, busy, active and involved.
The author is the director of the Amalgamated Nursery School.