Over the last several years, enrollment in Ellis’ early childhood program has been trending upward. While the School responds creatively to accommodate growing class sizes, the limitations of the existing pre-kindergarten classroom were clear.
There is an adage that every early childhood educator knows—the smaller the child, the bigger the space. In other words, young children need plenty of room at school to explore, play, and move their bodies. A well-designed physical space encourages learning, improves engagement, and supports positive classroom behaviors. It was time to imagine new spaces for our youngest learners as we prepared to accept the largest pre-kindergarten class in Ellis history.
When Head of School Macon Finley charged Ann Martino, Head of Lower School, with the task of redesigning the prekindergarten space, she went back to the drawing board several times before the light bulb went off. Ms. Martino’s grand plan? Open up the wall of the original pre-kindergarten room in the Lower School and connect it to two additional rooms in Arbuthnot House to create a suite of three interconnected classrooms. Thanks to a gift from a generous Ellis supporter, the expansion was made a reality.
With this renovated space, the pre-kindergarten now has three “magic carpet” areas where students meet for team meetings, a large block and building area where students collaborate, a discovery station where students engage with challenge activities related to their unit of learning, a large dramatic play area that will change with the focus of each discovery unit, an arts and crafts area, a space for getting messy at the sensory table or at the painting easel, a "home away from home" corner with a pretend kitchen and living room, and a peaceful “woodlands” library and writing center.
In addition to the expanded classroom space, pre-kindergarten has welcomed two new full-time teachers, Katie Kovach and Maggie Martone, and two part-time teaching assistants, Amanda Glevicky and Marian Opoku-Dakwa, who joined Lower School veteran teachers Denise LaRosa and Kim DeBaldo. The pre-kindergarten team is taking full advantage of these new spaces to create a learning environment that cultivates community and encourages meaningful learning.
Head of School Macon Finley can hardly contain her enthusiasm about these new spaces. “It is incredibly exciting to be able to welcome so many new families to Ellis. It is such a benefit to all our pre-kindergarten girls to be able to spend time learning and playing together in these beautiful new classrooms.”