Back to Brooklyn Preschools

Old First Nursery School

729 Carroll Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

(718) 857-2646

8 parents took the survey TAKE THE SURVEY

Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based

From the Director:

Our daily schedule allows for many opportunities for children to choose from a variety of centers, indoors and outside in our yard, for fine and gross motor development, and for development of creative problem solving skills, whether in block building or conflict resolution. Children have a great deal of freedom to choose where they play; teachers guide and facilitate at these times. For example, a child is digging in the sand box, 'looking for treasure'; a teacher may offer him/her a clipboard with paper and crayons to draw a map of their work, or introduce another child with similar interests and different skills to help in the search and to foster friendship and peer scaffolding. We structure our curriculum based on Dewey's belief that young children become most engaged when we extend the knowledge that they bring to school. Thus, we start the school year with the curriculum 'All about Me,' where children build up their understanding of themselves, through study of their senses, their physical body and their emotions. All activities include hands-on science experiments, art projects, related songs and music, and story-books and age-appropriate reference materials. We extend the curriculum through centers. We then branch out to study of our families and neighborhoods. As we get to know the children better, we begin to develop curriculum in direct response to their interests, for example building a subway train and station with a long track, subway cars, maps, signs, turnstile and token booths, all created or transformed by the children, supported by a trip to the Transit Museum, and left standing in our big room for as long as they are engaged, as engineers, track workers, token booth clerks selling metrocards for moeny they made themselves, or passengers taking their baby dolls on a ride...

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

Learning Philosophy & Tools

  Play- based mostly teacher led not formally in curriculum conducive environment
Language       more

More Information

  • A well-stocked bookcase
  • Individual notebooks for each child, a variety of writing instruments, a print-rich environment
Oral language  
Nursery rhymes, poems, songs  
Storybook reading  
Emerging literacy skills  
Cognitive development
Math & number sense more

More Information

  • Puzzles
  • Manipulatives: geometric pattern blocks, abacus, etc.
Time & space more

More Information

  • Calendars and clocks
  • Parquetry blocks, pegboards, and mosaic toys
  • Maps
  • Building blocks
  • timers for turn-taking
Sci. reasoning/physical world more

More Information

  • A place for science activities such as growing plants
  • Anatomy apron, garden where children plant and look for insects, snails, birds, etc, cooking & baking
Music more

More Information

  • Musical instruments
  • songbooks
Visual arts more

More Information

  • Materials such as paint, ink, paintbrushes, crayons, markers, chalk, paper, etc.
  • Art work on the walls
  • special projects like papier-m?ch?, sculptures with a variety of materials, printing, collage
Physical activity more

More Information

  • A playground with climbing equipment
  • Bean bags, balls, and other objects that children can throw, kick, and play
  • Tricycles
  • Enough room for children to move around and play and a suitable indoor alternative to the outdoor playground on rainy days
  • Sandboxes and/or water stations for play
  • swing set, jungle gym inside and outside
Other subjects taught We have enrichment classes with a specialist teacher, for example, dance and movement, yoga, and a course in the Spring at Brooklyn Conservatory.

From the Director:

Our approach fits somewhere between 'teacher-led' and 'Free play with some structure.' For example, in terms of literacy, we have a print-rich environment, we model writing when we write down children's comments and ideas, but we don't have worksheets, etc, or formal writing lessons; however, all the four-year olds are able to write when they finish the 2 year program. We set up a number of inter-active centers, guided and facilitated by teachers; we also have a circle time each day which includes music and songs, stories and poems, and discussion about a topic of study. Circle is generally followed by a related activity, which can be extended at any of the choice times.

Day in the Life

General School Mission

Old First Nursery School is a play- and exploration- based nursery school, with an emphasis on promoting self-sufficiency and socialization. The two year program creates an intimate and nurturing environment, enhanced by the parent involvement in this cooperative school. The mixed age group allows younger children in their first year to learn from older peers and empowers all the children. Our philosophy is based in large part on theories of Dewey, Gardner and Vygostky. Thus, we try to build on and extend the knowledge that children bring to school. We develop centers and curriculum that is accessible and engaging for many kinds of learners, and encourage peer scaffolding, where children learn from each others' strengths.

A Typical Day

8:45-9:00 Arrival
9:00-9:50 Choice - Play inside at centers, or outside in yard, includes clean-u &bathrooming and hand-washing. 9:50-10:05 Snack Time: children help to set up a healthy snack,
10:05-10:15 Library Time
choose a book to look at on their own,
with a friend, or with a teacher.
10:15-10:35 Circle Time: We sing songs with movements and gestures, then read curriculum related story or poem, followed by discussion where children share their ideas.
10:35-11:00 Activity: A curriculum related project: art project, science experiment, children act out a story themselves or with puppets they've made, etc.
11:00-11:10 Update calendar, read job chart together.
11:10-12:00 Choice Time, Inside or Outside, includes clean-up time, bathrooming and hand-washing. 11:45-12:00 Mid-day Dismissal (some children have 1/2 days, others a full day) 12:00-12:30 Lunch, children and teachers eat together at big tables or picnic in the yard when weather permits, very lovely social time. Children clean up their lunches themselves.
12:30-1:00 Quiet play in classroom or in yard.
1:00-1:15 Song and Read-Aloud Story, a quieting down time before rest.
1:15-2:15 Rest Time: Children can choose a book to take to their mats and a stuffed animal from home, they sleep or rest quietly. 2:15-3:00 Play in the classroom: drawing in their notebooks, play with play-do or geometric shapes, or play in the yard. 2:45-3:00 Afternoon Dismissal

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

There is time each day, at arrival and dismissal for parents and teachers to check in with each other and maintain a dialogue. We have parent-teacher conferences twice a year. Teachers write a daily note about what we've done in school that day, and send emails and letters updating what is happening at school. Teachers and parents can also communicate by email and telephone, and schedule additional meetings as necessary. In addition, we invite parents and family members to come to the classroom to share a special interest or skill. We also include parents on trips.

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Hold social events at the school to build community
  • Fundraise
  • Are required to make donations ourselves
  • Are able to visit the school anytime we want
  • Go on field trips
  • Volunteer in the classroom
  • Receive newsletters

Modes of Communication

  • Notes
  • Phone Calls
  • Voice Mail
  • Email
  • Special Meetings
  • Two or More Regular Conferences
  • Drop-Off
  • Pick-Up
  • Regular newsletter/printed updates circulated to the whole school


Separation is Handled through:

  • Pre-entry meetings with parents at school
  • Small group sessions
  • Parents in classroom early on
  • Abbreviated schedule at start of school year

Handling Separation: From the Director

New children and families have an individual meeting with the teachers at school, to get to know each other one-to-one, and for children to get a sense of the classroom and to know which activity they might look for on the first day of school, and to begin to have a sense of ownership in the school. The first day is only for new children, a smaller group which allows teachers to help children in a smaller teacher-student ratio. The first few days are 1/2 days to ease into the school year; we also suggest that 3 yr. olds start the year with half days, then later in the year, ease into adding a few whole days. Before school starts in September, we also send home a book list of stories that deal with separation anxiety and starting school for families to read together; we read and discuss the same stories in the first weeks of school. The teachers will help each individual child according to his/her needs, and work closely with the parent to help the family make the transition smoothly. In general, we encourage parents to not stay too long in the classroom, because we have found that children become more easily engaged in school activities and with friends once the parents have left, and the children are no longer checking over their shoulder for the parent.