Bronx House 2
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Lots of play and exploration with experienced teachers
Located in Pelham Parkway Houses, Bronx House 2 looks drab on the outside but inside are four lively pre-kindergarten classes with experienced teachers and a multi-ethnic group of children. It is an easy five-minute walk from the Bronx House complex, which was founded in 1911 as a Jewish community center and offers swimming, yoga, day camps, dance, drama and other programs for all ages.
The pre-kindergarten classrooms opened in 2003 and they are dynamic, friendly places where kids ask questions, work together and talk animatedly with their teachers and each other. Bright rooms are equipped with blocks, light tables, dress-up areas and books. There isn't a large gym like at Bronx House 1, but classrooms open to fenced-in play yards and each has its own bathroom.
Teachers pick up on topics of interest to children for further exploration. On our visit, one class was painting a cardboard washing machine as they explored a theme on winter clothing. These city kids were also learning what people wear when they go skiing. A child sat with a teacher learning to make the letters in her name, three boys play-acted changing a baby's diaper, and another enthusiastically donned a purple dress and said, "I'm Rapunzel!"
Bronx House pre-k is popular with Albert Einstein Hospital employees and also has unemployed parents. Some children come from China, Albania, Mexico, Pakistan and other parts of the world. They come with and without special needs and while some families receive free lunch others can easily afford the $300 a month for extra childcare hours from 8 am to 6 pm. Both locations attract a range of economics, ethnicities and languages but Bronx House 2 tends to have more Spanish-speaking children, according to bilingual parent coordinator Rosa Muniz, who spends half her time at each location.
Director Serene Stevens worked for eight years at Children's Aid Society in Greenwich Village before it closed. A mother of three children, she is a fan of progressive schools and is committed to keeping play-based learning in the Bronx House pre-k program.
Admissions: At the time of our visit there were about a dozen open spots at Bronx House because of new pre-k options in the neighborhood. (Lydie Raschka, December 2015)Read more