downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

Back to School 2006

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Ayala Marcktell, founder of Tribeca Community School

Preschool boasts its method gets the most out of its kids

By David Spett

This fall, a new preschool with a unique mission will open in Tribeca, and the school’s founder says it will be among the best preschools in the world.

Tribeca Community School, at 22 Ericsson Pl., will employ the Reggio Emilia approach to preschool education, which stresses a homelike classroom, individual investigation and parental involvement in educating 2-to-5-year-olds.

“We believe that if you give the children the best, you can get the best work from the children, you can get the most out of the children,” said Ayala Marcktell, the school’s founder. Marcktell has also founded four other preschools in Queens and Manhattan, but Tribeca Community School is the first to employ the Reggio Emilia approach.

“This is the best early childhood education in the world,” Marcktell said. “It is [considered] the best by professional people, professors and other people in early childhood education.”

Marcktell also uses the phrase “the best” to describe the preschool’s furnishings and overall environment.

“Not all the furniture is from school suppliers,” Marcktell said. “They are regular furnishings that we have at home.”

Still, she would not use the word “fancy” to describe the classroom environment, she said.

The Reggio Emilia approach is not to be confused with the Montessori method, a popular approach employed at other private preschools.

“The difference is that in Montessori, when you finish learning a task, when you master a task, then you go to the next one,” Marcktell said. “Our school is not like this. You don’t have to finish a task to learn a new one. You’re constantly investigating and learning.”

Children’s artwork and projects are displayed on the classroom walls, Marcktell said, and teachers use a camcorder, digital camera and voice recorder to document children’s progress.

“Every child has a portfolio when you enter school, so the parents can follow the progress of the child,” Marcktell said.

Beyond that, parents are encouraged to come to school and take part in their child’s education anytime.

“They sit in regular chairs and a regular sofa and can read to the child,” Marcktell said. “We encourage parents to be part of the classroom.”

So far, about 15 students have enrolled, which is 10 fewer than Marcktell had hoped. She plans for the school to reach its full capacity of 100 students within a few years.

Latham Thomas, who has a 3-year-old son enrolled at Tribeca Community School, said the school seemed like the best in the area.

“I’ve been looking since he was 1. I didn’t find the exact setting that I liked, I didn’t find the kind of educational philosophy that I was looking for,” Thomas said.

“Their philosophy is super. It’s just, like, really hip,” Thomas added, mentioning the school’s emphasis on the arts.

Tuition ranges from $800 to $1,450 per month, depending on the number of days a child will attend. The school is for profit, and financial aid is not offered.

More information is available at the school’s Web site, tribecacommunityschool.com.



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