The Roosevelt Island Day Nursery (RIDN) is heading into its 40th year of providing high-quality early childhood programs here on the Island. We started from the ground up in 1976, when a group of interested parents formed their own preschool program. Growing steadily in enrollment over the next three years in what was still a very new Island community, we eventually blossomed into a full-fledged early childhood school. In 1979, we were incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, governed by a Board of Trustees composed of current and alumni parents, community members, faculty, and the Executive Director (ex-officio). Today, RIDN is a well-regarded independent preschool with enrollment of more than 60 children (primarily Island residents) and 22 staff members. We are now an international and extremely diverse community, with families hailing from all over the globe.
Our philosophy is that school should be a warm and supportive environment where children can grow in all domains: cognitively, emotionally, socially, and physically. At the core of our beliefs is the importance of play in supporting overall development. Through play, children learn to make sense of the world around them while they develop the language needed to express ideas and build relationships. Over time, children develop independence, confidence, and resiliency by making choices and resolving conflicts. In practicing the ability to apply their learning to new situations, they become inventive problem-solvers.
RIDN’s caring and knowledgeable teachers expose children to the foundations of pre-literacy, mathematical concepts, science, and social studies with a developmentally-appropriate program that nurtures their own ideas and innate creativity through hands-on learning experiences, engaging natural and recycled materials, block construction, and sensory exploration with sand and water. Children learn to represent their ideas with high-quality artist materials such as clay and tempera and watercolor paints.
Take a tour through either of our sites and you will find visible evidence of children’s learning. Large color photographs are displayed alongside the children’s dialogue, recorded in real time by teachers to provide insight into their thinking. This pedagogical documentation focuses on children’s stated ideas, helps teachers unearth the concepts underlying children’s perceptions of the world, and provides the foundation for meaningful follow-up explorations and projects as the curriculum “emerges” from the children’s work, play, and own interests. RIDN values the process as much as the products of learning, as it is through the process of creating alongside peers that language emerges, relationships develop, ideas are exchanged, and knowledge is constructed. Teachers learn, through their observation and documentation of children’s experiences and the language they use to describe their thinking, just which projects seem to be emerging from the children’s own interests in order to facilitate them. Many images of individuals and groups at work and play are placed at children’s eye-level, which offer opportunities for them to revisit and reflect on their own experiences. This in turn invites meta-cognition and other examples of higher-order thinking, which research demonstrates are so important in the kindergarten years and beyond.
Our faculty and administration have exceptional academic backgrounds and years of experience in the classroom. Every lead teacher and many assistants hold a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Teachers who choose to work at RIDN tend to stay for the long run; their commitments are a testament to their belief in our school community. I am also excited to share that Tamara Troadec has joined our staff as our new Assistant Director, offering families a unique perspective as alum parent, Island resident (Rivercross), and former RIDN teacher in our after-school program. Previously, she was a preschool teacher in Manhattan and a public school primary teacher in Chicago and Brooklyn, and has worked in management, teaching, and social work in the field of adult education in New York and Vermont. Troadec says, “I am so happy to be a part of my own community in this way, and look forward to supporting the continuing development of this special school.”
I have had a long history with RIDN, beginning 14 years ago as a consultant in special education and social work when I worked with Sara Seiden, who is now Director Emeritus. In 2011, I became the Director of our 405 Main Street site, and, in January 2015, I was hired as Executive Director. In addition, I am fortunate to be an alum parent; my child attended RIDN from ages one to five-and-a-half.
Our Parent Association has many new exciting and important events planned for the year, and we have already embarked on a number of Strategic Planning initiatives, including a continued evolution of our curriculum to keep up with the latest progressive and research-supported practices. This includes expanding arts enrichment in our Extended Day Program. We currently offer special classes in music and movement, and are proud of our connections with Music Together and the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance. With a variety of Strategic Planning committee events in full swing, we are focusing on further strengthening our community connections, and will be coordinating events with partners such as the Seniors Association. In conjunction with our Strategic Planning efforts, RIDN is redesigning our school’s logo and visual identity, which we look forward to unveiling sometime in the new year to help celebrate our 40th anniversary.
RIDN has two facilities on the Island. At 405 Main Street (inside Riverwalk), we serve our youngest children, ages three months to two-and-a-half years. We offer a 12-month program, starting in early September and ending in mid-August. Children may be enrolled for a two-day (Tuesday/Thursday), three-day (Monday/Wednesday/Friday), or five-day program. Classrooms are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Children ages two-and-a-half to five years old attend preschool and prekindergarten at 4 River Road (inside Manhattan Park). This program runs from early September through mid-June, and students may enroll for a morning session (9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m), a full day (9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m), or an extended day (9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m) five days a week. Early drop-off, beginning at 8:00 a.m., is also available. Optional holiday camps and summer camps are offered for students in July and August.
Both sites offer safe, beautifully designed classrooms and specially equipped indoor and outdoor play areas. Our Island’s beautiful open spaces, which make up our outdoor classrooms, also allow the children much delight as they explore through all the seasons.
Our enrollment period for new families begins every March (for the following September), with most classrooms filled by mid-August. We accept rolling admissions into the school year when space becomes available, and tours are available year-round. We also offer financial aid, although it is limited, and families are encouraged to apply by mid-May. Additional information can be found at our website, www.ridn.org. Please feel free to call us at 212-593-0750 to request a tour of either site. We hope to welcome many more new families to help us grow our community-within-a-community in the coming year!