Esther Ashkenas Central Park Early Learning Center, located in the Midtown West area of New York City, is a preschool that accepts children, ages 3 to 5 years old, providing individualized educational and therapeutic services to those who have developmental delays such as autism spectrum disorder, (ASD), intellectual disability, (ID), communication disorder, Cerebral Palsy, orthopedic needs, and Down Syndrome. The school has been recognized with the Early Childhood Program Award given by the New York State Education Department Office of School Improvement and Community Services of New York City.
Central Park ELC contains 15 classrooms served by approximately 70 staff. Classes range in size between 6, 8, 10, 12 students with high levels of support based on students’ learning needs.
At Central Park ELC, the underlying belief is that all children should be adequately challenged, but not overwhelmed in the learning environment. Young learners at Central Park ELC are always approached from the “whole child” perspective. Teachers examine each child’s unique strengths and specific needs. The teachers can provide services and instruction for developmental areas that require support. They encourage a life-long fascination with learning.
At Central Park ELC, all classroom teachers are certified, with Master’s degrees in Birth through 2nd grade, for both general and Special Education, and most are dually-certified. Classroom teachers receive support from certified teaching assistants. Central Park ELC’s staff also includes speech, occupational, and physical therapists. Curriculum specialists, who assist in curricular development and instructional strategies. There is a full-time nurse, a music teacher, a school-based soccer program, numerous gyms, and an indoor playground.
Central Park ELC relies on a range of curricular resources to support its young learners and to prepare them for the Transition to Kindergarten. The primary curricular guide is the Creative Curriculum for Children. Within the Creative Curriculum, classrooms are structured to reflect the developmental continuum. Instruction is presented in a way that children feel safe, comfortable and in time, become independent, confident learners. The Creative Curriculum focuses on child development, learning environments, content areas, defining the teacher role, and recognizing the family role. Along with establishing specific “interest areas” in the classroom (e.g. block area, water play, dramatic play area, etc.). The interest areas have shown to facilitate social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development, The Creative Curriculum emphasizes small group instruction in rotations in order to provide the most effective instruction. Visual, auditory, and hands-on approach are aspects of the Creative Curriculum. Provide the instructional tools needed to further child development.
Teachers are also trained on a corresponding assessment system, Teaching Strategies Gold: Objectives for Development and Learning Assessment Tool. This allows teachers to accurately track children’s progress and identify areas that need further attention.
Specifically, these classrooms use the STAR Program to develop curricular goals and encourage development in the essential domains across language, independence, and foundational skills.
Throughout the school, Central Park ELC embraces the essential role of literacy in preschool education. They consider themselves a literacy-based program. Central Park ELC regularly collaborates with the Scholastic Books Company to participate in book fairs. This helps cultivate the students’ interest in books. The school administration also provides workshops for parents on various important topics. These workshops assist parents to expand their parenting skills. It helps encourage parents to follow-through at home.
Acknowledging the importance of creating good habits early in life, Central Park ELC promotes healthy eating. The school recommends that parents provide nutritious food for snacks and lunch. Teachers also help young students learn to make healthy choices by including weekly cooking projects. Help them understand the importance of health-related concepts through hands-on methods.
To improve young learners’ community-based skills, students participate in class trips to city landmarks. Teachers also take their students to visit beautiful, nearby parks for games and events. On a typical day at Central Park ELC, the young learners participate in activities that address literacy, math, or science as well as instructional, motor activities. Central Park ELC also incorporates technology into everyday programming.
All students have access to computers, Smart Boards and iPads to supplement their learning and to help teachers to present concepts in multiple ways. The school recognizes the potential value of technology in helping many students acquire appropriate skills. However, it is aware of the possible issues caused by relying too heavily on these technological strategies. Overall, teachers are mindful that all lessons and activities require differentiation so that every young student’s learning style is recognized and addressed.
Esther Ashkenas Central Park Early Learning Center
450 W 56th Street, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10019
Principal: Beth Rosenthal
School Hours: 8:30-2:00