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Purple Circle

251 West 100th Street
New York, NY 10025

(212) 866-9193


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Philosophy & Approach

School Philosophy

General Approach to Learning: Play-Based

From the Director:

"I think it is critical for programs like Purple Circle to preserve the child's right to play. There have been misconceptions about what play really is-that it is just letting children do whatever they want. Adults often are looking for visible, didactic learning. But what play does is allow children to explore and make sense of the world and people around them.' 'The teacher's role is to listen and observe, taking the child's dialogue and thoughts as the springboard for curriculum development. That means the teacher and child investigate, research, and build upon the child's interests. The teacher and child become the 'researchers.' We can call this an 'emergent curriculum,' ideas developing from the interests of children. Research tells us that children learn best when the topic is relevant to them-to their lives and their families.' 'Children have multiple ways of expressing themselves-whether it be through language, art, music, drama, block building. At Purple Circle, we create the space for children to reflect on what they know and what they find out through all these ways."(SOURCE: - From an interview with Elaine Karas, June 25, 2001

Curriculum & Teaching Approach

From the Director:

"Curriculum Children's questions and ideas are the basis for curriculum planning. Investigation occurs through a variety of mediums, such as art, music, literature, dance, block building and dramatic play. Our classrooms are designed to encourage exploration for all types of learning. Instead of feeding children a set of facts, we take their daily discoveries and explore them in depth. When the curriculum is tailored to meet the individual's strengths and interests, and the environment supports this, the children see themselves as capable learners, making sense of the world around them." (SOURCE:

Day in the Life

General School Mission

"'Experience is a moving force when it arouses curiosity, strengthens initiative and sets up desires and purposes.' - John Dewey Purple Circle is a well-established and diverse program for early childhood education on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Philosophy At Purple Circle, we aim to promote the interdependence of cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. Children learn about their world through their play. We respect and value children and encourage them as they learn with and about each other, and to grow increasingly independent. These acquired skills are the best preparation for elementary school, and are also a life-long asset." (SOURCE:

Home-School Connection

Home-School Connection: From the Director

"Parents Purple Circle believes that parents are the child's first teachers, and thus vital partners in early childhood education. We involve parents in every aspect of the school. The center is run as a membership cooperative, which means that parents must assist in the overall operation of the school. Contributions that families make include repairs, fund raising, recruitment drives, professional services and Board membership. One parent from each family participates in an annual 'work day' improving the school's facilities. Parents also contribute to each classroom, leading special activities, organizing or accompanying school trips, or crafting new toys and facilities (a playhouse, a loft, a kitchen, a puppet theater). There is at least one required general meeting of the whole parent community each year, and many other social and informational events as well, such as our school-wide Harvest Celebration, an outing to the latest Paper Bag Players show, or a class trip to a neighborhood restaurant. Our emphasis on community not only strengthens the bonds between our children, but gives families a network of support and friendships that can last a lifetime." (SOURCE:

Parents Say They are Encouraged to:

  • Sit on the board of trustees
  • 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