The Children's Workshop School
Manhattan NY 10009
Warm and welcoming school with rich arts instruction and small class sizes
No real gymnasium; very early lunch for some children in this shared building
One of four small, progressive schools in the East Village, The Children's Workshop School prides itself on the fact that the racial, ethnic and economic diversity inside the building closely reflects the population outside the building. The staff make-up is also noticeably diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and race.
Hallmarks of CWP include semester-long themes on topics like water, immigration and the city. Children delve into artsy, hands-on projects. First and 2nd graders are mixed together but separated into age-level groups for math. No other grades are "bridged" in that way but teachers stay with the same children for 3th and 4th grade, a strategy called "looping."
Principal Maria Velez-Clarke co-founded the school in 1993 and based it on the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There are no Christmas or Halloween parties, but every January the kids put on a big celebration and performance to commemorate the late civil rights activist.
Children call teachers by their first names and teachers relate to children in an easy-going, matter-of-fact way. Many lessons have an active component: addition is explored using beads and pipe cleaners in one room and colored wooden rods in another. Teachers used expressive voices and kids leaned forward to watch and listen: "I like that!" said a boy, spontaneously, after a math demonstration.
Art, music, technology, drama and music teachers connect what happens in their classes with social studies themes and classroom work. Much of the student work incorporates art. Children draw food chains and water cycles. They make colorful charts in math showing how many ways you can add two numbers to make ten, for example.
Field trips are significant here and by our early December visit 2nd graders had already been to the Central Park reservoir, Lake Tear of the Clouds, the NYC watershed, Highbridge Park and other places related to their study of water. "These kids know more about New York City than I do," said Joyce Borden, the school's longtime secretary, who remembers carrying mace in her bag on her walk to school when the East Village was more crime-ridden than it is now.
Children's Workshop has succeeded in raising test scores without compromising its project-based approach. A math consultant works with staff and parents, and a reading specialist works one-on-one with a handful of 1st graders in a program called Reading Recovery. There is afterschool test prep starting in February for grades 3 and 4.
Children's Workshop has a makeshift gymnasium and a small cafeteria. Children must eat in shifts starting at 10:30 am. Recess takes place on the playground or in nearby parks on nice days, and in the auditorium watching a movie when the weather is poor.
To maintain its diversity, teachers spread flyers and visit pre-k programs and public housing developments. The school gives scholarships to anyone who can't afford the afterschool fee and each child has a designated "special day" hosted by the child's family. A father who lives across the street in Campos Houses said children (including his own) are happy at CWP, "and if they're happy everything else is taken care of."
Children's Workshop shares a 100-year old building with the progressive East Village Community School, and PS 94, a District 75 school for children with special education needs, who attend classes at CWP.
Special education: To a great extent, the school includes children with special needs in general education classrooms with extra support. One class on each grade has two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education.
Admissions: Priority to children from District 1. The school occasionally has room for out of district families but the wait list is growing. "There's shuffling until the end of October," said a kindergarten teacher. (Lydie Raschka, December 2015)