Learning Through Play: Rutgers Community Programs

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.” Rutgers Community Programs adopted this motto from anthropologist George Dorsey and has built its foundation on this principle. Children learn by doing … or at Rutgers, by playing.

Located at 236 West 73rd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue, Rutgers Community Programs is the ideal pre-school for parents seeking a shorter school day with a focus on small class sizes and experiential learning in relationship-driven environments.

In a facility that includes a full-sized gym, an art studio, a roof deck, and beautifully equipped classrooms, Rutgers offers the community a unique, learning environment.

Ready, Set, Go! In the Gym

Ready, Set, Go! in their classroom

3s and 4s group on roof deck

3s and 4s group on roof deck

3s and 4s classroom reading nook

3s and 4s classroom reading nook

Rutgers has created a close-knit community; most teachers have been with the program for several years and remain connected to Rutgers families long after their children have moved on to grade school.

Rutgers Community Programs also offers a welcoming and inclusive environment. There’s no rigorous application process; if spaces are available and parents want to enroll their children, they can.

Play rules at Rutgers. Creativity and imagination are key.

Rutgers Community Programs firmly believes that preschoolers learn through play and that it can unlock true potential and unveil real passions and talent. As Paul Tullis notes in his article The Death of Preschool, “nearly all developmental psychologists, neuroscientists and education experts recommend [play] for children up to age seven as the best way to nurture kids’ development and ready them for academic success later in life.” To read more on Rutgers’ philosophy, click this link.

Play Starts at 2

Rutgers’ currently offers a session for 2s called On My Own and two sessions for 3 and 4 year olds called Ready, Set, Go!

In On My Own, two-year-olds are given a “gentle transition to drop-off,” with the ultimate goal of enabling children to feel “comfortable and confident on their own through a hands-on, adult-directed activity, and child-led imaginative play.”

For three and four-year-old kids, Ready, Set, Go! “employ[s] an emergent curriculum that is based in play, creating activities according to the children’s interests, making classroom experiences dynamic and meaningful. Children also learn, play, and explore in [Rutgers’] art studio, gym, roof, ‘indoor playground,’ as well as on selected trips around the neighborhood. Block building, sensory play, science, and story time activities are key components of our program.” More information about this program is available here.

3s and 4s class child fingerpainting

3s and 4s Class Finger Paints in the Art Studio

Recently, a Ready, Set, Go! class for 3s and 4s took an interest in buildings. The group then spent the next week learning how buildings change over time and how to navigate the Upper West Side using maps. They worked in teams to construct their own versions of city blocks and interviewed members of our community to learn more about the buildings in the area.

Last year Central Park served as the inspiration for another group of three and four year olds. They explored sections of the park, built their own models of it, and collected items from nature, culminating in  a group art installation inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy.

3s and 4s child discovery in central park

3s and 4s child discovery in Central Park

3s and 4s child building model of central park

3s and 4s child building model of Central Park

3s and 4s goldsworthy art installation

3s and 4s Goldsworthy art installation

In another class, a fall discussion about apples evolved into questions about what can be made with them. Once the children determined that apples can be used in pies, they visited a local diner and interviewed the bakers there. After many months, the children then built a pie shop, made three different kinds of pies, and opened for business in early spring. Each assumed different roles at the shop: some took orders, some handled the cash, and others packaged and delivered to their customers. Proceeds were used to buy a small classroom greenhouse.

taking orders at the pie shop

taking orders at the pie shop

As the examples show, learning opportunities are in abundance at Rutgers.  But just as important is the sense of community and connection children have there, where children feel at home, make long-lasting friendships, and have lots of fun.

“Rutgers Community Programs is a hidden gem on the UWS. The art studio is magical and top notch. The teachers are caring and entertaining while patiently helping little humans learn to interact with one another. It’s more than just a school- it’s a place to flourish. The gym is on site; you don’t have to walk across intersections or to the park to exercise those muscles. You are greeted every day at the door by staff who monitor the facility. I look forward to the weekly email showcasing what they learned and how they interacted with each other so you can see progress and reflect with your child about different topics. They also offer valuable speakers and events for families so we can all navigate the New York education system and have fun during these precious years. It speaks volumes about socialization skills when your child wants to play with their friends every day of the week. We are so thankful for finding Rutgers!”

– A Happy Rutgers Parent!

Rutgers On My Own program

On My Own for 2s in their classroom

The staff are also committed to keeping the entire Rutgers family safe as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues. All employees are vaccinated and masked while indoors. Children are required to undergo daily health screenings and frequent hand hygiene.

Upcoming informational sessions about the 2022-2023 play programs are available on October 28, November 9, November 16 and November 30 through Zoom, which will include both Ready, Set, Go! and On My Own.

To register, contact Director Jennifer Moore here.

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