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Pine Street School Opens Doors to Pre-K

By Joan Baum, Ph.D.

Lower Manhattan has a new pre-K-elementary school, one with an unusual curriculum and high hopes for success. Its founder, Dr. Jennifer Jones, uses the term "marriage" to describe its mission, content and structure - a merger of two concepts that until now, with the establishment of the new school, Pine Street, at 40 Wall Street, have been joined together at only one other school in the country (The Whitby School in Greenwich, CT). The idea is to bring together Monessori principles, practices and procedures with International Baccalaureate (IB) programs as early as Pre-K.  The result is what Jones calls a "Montessori-infused International Baccalaureate program," the first of its kind in Manhattan. The IB method, she says, encourages children to think and act like professionals in various disciplines, engaging in problem solving and problem posing This fall, the school opened with approximately 40-50 preschool and early elementary school students. Grade six will start in 2015, and each year after another grade will be added, with Pine Street eventually covering high school. Jones describes the marriage as "unique" and "challenging," an inquiry-based curriculum" with an optional Spanish immersion component.

Jones, who is the founder of Green Ivy Schools, a network of private schools based in lower Manhattan, is a longtime education consultant nationally and internationally on school development, management, strategic planning and fundraising. She says that the Pine Street School is "a breath of fresh air educationally, experientially and architecturally." For sure, viewers who go online will see a knockout design of 85,000 square feet (designed by Perkins Eastman), with floor-to-ceiling windows, moveable walls, multipurpose studios and a dedicated performance space with state-of-the-art acoustics and lighting, including project rooms and workshop areas that can also accommodate culinary, scientific and artistic programming. Even the hallways and stairwells can also serve as a "potential learning space." The Pine Street School is the second of the Green Ivy network (a Battery Park Montessori preschool opened last year in Lower Manhattan).

Why Lower Manhattan?  Jones points out that there is a wait list for the public schools in the area because of a population explosion of young people moving in (The Pine Street School is a station away from Brooklyn). Herself the mother of a five-year-old, she felt immediately the effect of closed schools but also a "responsibility" to do something for parents of young children.  Not just responsibility, but "fierce passion" to ensure that kids got to go to neighborhood schools, reflecting the values of the area and enhancing them by their presence.  Down the road, she says, Green Ivy schools will be more accessible to changing populations, but for now, her imagination and energy have been fired not to waste time. The marriage consists of integrating intimate, nurturing, internally directed Montessori ideas with IB focus on global and wide cultural issues and have children realize their potential by merging cognitive and social learning. The IB curriculum begins with three year olds and is referred to as PYP (Primary Year Program), with MYP for the middle year and eventually DYP, a Diploma Year Program for the high schools.

The staff of course is the number-one consideration. Jones auditions teachers - "watching them with kids, you can tell who's got it, the children tell you." Eileen Baker, Head of School at Pine Street, has 30 years of experience not only in teaching and directing education programs in this country but with IB programs in Turkey, Angola and Indonesia. As of this fall, entering students, as young as two years old, can attend a half day session (9-12 or 1-4) or go from 9-3, which includes lunch and , after school activities, such as martial arts, cooking, theatre. For those who elect Spanish immersion, approximately 50% of their day will be conducted in that language (eventually other languages will be added to the curriculum).

Jones is understandably excited about opening a school that will encourage "kids to flower, help them be what they're meant to be," and not what they're told they must or should be." That means that they start thinking like professionals in their early grades, and developing a love, a passion for what they study. "You have to work really hard to make learning boring," she laughs. No way, she feels confident, could this happen at Pine Street. About 80-90% of those who learned about the school did so by word of mouth, but Jones invites readers to go to www.greenivy.com. She estimates that the cost of attending Pine Street is $30.000 a year.#

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