At Park Street Academy, a private pre-school and kindergarten in Montclair, parents, students and teachers were excited to be back in the classroom together for the the 2020/2021 school year.

Park Street Academy (PSA) utilizes a pod-style learning approach, says Park Street Academy director Lisa Raphael.

“We have been able to create safe learning pods of no more than 15 per pod without sacrificing our mission of an outstanding academic program in a warm, nurturing environment,” says Raphael.

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Park Street Academy (PSA), a private pre-school and kindergarten located in Montclair, NJ, hosted its Senior Art Museum, a special, one-night-only, pop-up museum exhibit on Friday, May 31. The show featured over 400 works created SA students between 4-6 years old, inspired by a diverse set of artists from around the world and based on a fully-immersive year-long art curriculum designed by PSA Director and longtime educator, Lisa Raphael.

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Park Street Academy (PSA), a private pre-school and kindergarten located in Montclair, hosted SAM (Senior Art Museum), a special, one-night-only, pop-up museum exhibit on May 18. 

This show featured more 400 works created by 40 talented Senior South and Senior North students based on a fully-immersive year-long art curriculum designed by PSA Director and longtime educator, Lisa Raphael. 

SAM showcased the work of PSA students between 4-6 years old, inspired by great artists they studied throughout the year – ranging from the conceptual art of Wayne Thiebaud to the stained glass works of Marc Chagall, the “dots” made famous by Yayoi Kusama, Picasso’s “Blue Period,” Jim Dine’s hearts and more.

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MONTCLAIR, NJ – May 14, 2018:  Park Street Academy (PSA), a private pre-school and kindergarten located in Montclair, NJ, will host SAM (Senior Art Museum), a special, one-night-only, pop-up museum exhibit on May 18, 2018 beginning at 6:30 PM.  This show will feature over 400 works created by 40 talented Senior South and Senior North students based on a fully-immersive year-long art curriculum designed by PSA Director and longtime educator, Lisa Raphael.

SAM will showcase the work of PSA students between 4-6 years old, inspired by great artists they studied throughout the year – ranging from the conceptual art of Wayne Thiebaud to the stained glass works of Marc Chagall, the “dots” made famous by Yayoi Kusama, Picasso’s “Blue Period,” Jim Dine’s hearts and more.

While many schools feature art programming, PSA’s SAM exhibit illustrates exactly how a more robust exposure to the world of fine arts at a young age can have a major impact on preschoolers and kindergarteners.  With Raphael’s in-depth approach, students explored art concepts such as lines and shapes, primary and secondary colors and shading. They also studied different genres in art, learning about the history of each movement and the lives of each artist highlighted in the show.

“In addition to math and reading skills, art is a major building block in child development, and learning to create and appreciate visual beauty may be even more important to the development of the next generation of children” explains Raphael. “Being exposed to the world of fine arts at a young age can open up an entirely new world, giving children the vocabulary to speak about his or her favorite artist, recognize a famous painting or ask to use a variety of media to create a masterpiece of his or her own.”

Neuroscience research shows that a child’s engagement in early art activities can help create unique brain connections by promoting problem solving, decision making and other cognitive skills.  Students also experience fine motor skill development because holding a pencil, oil pastel, piece of chalk, crayon, or marker – and cutting with scissors or controlling the amount of glue to use – can be challenging tasks for a preschooler to accomplish.  What’s more, art offers children an important outlet for emotional expression. Discussion of cool and warm colors, why artists use them and how certain colors make them feel are wonderful ways to understand emotions. Studying the fine arts also opens up a world of creativity and a deeper understanding of culture, history and diversity.

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Park Street Academy students and families enjoy learning about the art and artists at the second annual Senior Art Museum Fine Art Exhibit earlier this month.

Park Street Academy, a private pre-school and kindergarten hosted a one-night-only, pop-up museum exhibit on May 5. The show featured over 400 works by 41 students inspired by great artists including Kandinsky, Picasso, and Van Gogh. The art curriculum was designed by PSA director and longtime educator Lisa Raphael. The event also highlighted and benefited Save a Child’s Heart, a nonprofit that works to save children with congenital heart defects by improving the quality of pediatric cardiac care in countries where the heart surgery they need is unobtainable. PSA hosted an art auction showcasing the work of children who have been helped by SACH.

Park Street Academy (PSA), a private pre-school and kindergarten, and Montclair B.A.B.Y. have collaborated to introduce yoga to PSA students as part of afternoon enrichment programming.

Montclair B.A.B.Y. is a center dedicated to supporting the well-being of expectant moms, new parents, and their families. This partnership will help students learn to calm the mind, spark creativity and imagination, and provide tools for stress management and impulse control.

Throughout the school year, PSA offers students the opportunity to experience a variety of extracurricular activities, from basketball and tennis to tap dancing and yoga. This type of programming is fun for the kids and has been shown to facilitate learning and academic performance.  Yoga, in particular, enhances body awareness, encourages kind social interactions, and teaches the value of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Did you know that art education – even at the preschool level – is just as important to development as reading and math? In fact, art is a major building block in child development and learning to create and appreciate visual beauty may be even more important to the development of the next generation of children. Being exposed to the world of fine arts at a young age can open up an entirely new world to you preschooler and kindergartner, giving them the vocabulary to speak about his or her favorite artist, recognize a famous painting or ask to use a variety of media to create a masterpiece of his or her own. Here are the five biggest ways fine art can impact the whole child even in these most formative years:

1. Brain Boost!

Neuroscience tells us that a child’s engagement in early art activities can help create unique brain connections by promoting problem solving, decision making and other cognitive skills. In fact, what was formerly known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) is now STEAM. Yup…you guessed it! ART is now included.

Traditionally, science was taught in science class and art in art class. Thanks to the work of Nan Renner, a researcher at UC San Diego’s Center for Research on Educational Equity (CREATE), we not only know the importance of integrating the sciences and arts, but are also working towards making STEAM a natural part of education. The most crucial part of STEAM is integration. Nan pointed out that “when we engage in real-world problem-solving, the disciplinary boundaries fade into the background. We blend and merge creative and critical thinking, representing ideas with words, metaphors, numbers, images, and forms. We can be inquisitive and thoughtful about what these different modalities offer, in education and the workplace, and expand our collective repertoire for identifying and solving big challenges.”

2. Fine Motor Skill Development

So often we take for granted how many skills are woven into what looks like a simple work of art. Holding a pencil, oil pastel, piece of chalk, crayon, or marker; cutting with scissors; and controlling the amount of glue to use are all very difficult tasks for a preschooler to accomplish. By never judging a child’s art and remembering that process is more important than product, you will see and appreciate all of the artwork hanging up in your child’s classroom.

3. Social & Emotional Growth

Art offers children an important outlet for emotional expression and the assurance that their feelings are valued. Discussion of cool and warm colors, why artists use them and how certain colors make them feel are wonderful ways to understand emotions. Working on an art project with a partner or group fosters social growth, as children will need to have discussions, respect for one another’s input and learn to share materials.

4. Can You Say Creativity?

During the National Arts Education Association convention, Professor Elliot Eisner of Stanford University said, “In the arts, imagination is the primary virtue.”

This is quite profound if you really stop and think about what the brain does when creating art. It is charged with visualizing and interpreting things it cannot see! In addition, analyzing famous works of art fosters imagination. What made Monet choose those colors? What was Pollock feeling or thinking as he poured and dripped his paint? By teaching through guided discovery, children explore color and design… And once this window is opened, the world will never quite look the same. A child’s sense of vision and possibilities then becomes profound, endless, and free of judgement.

5. Culture, History & Diversity

Art is a major contributor in cultural diversity and appreciation. It provides a connection for children to their own roots while also allowing them to discover and appreciate artwork throughout history and across other cultures. Like many of their masterpieces, the lives of famous artists are fascinating and young artists can explore this by reading books, watching videos and going to museums with a growing understanding for everything they see.

For all these benefits and more, all you need to do is pick up a paintbrush with you child, plan a trip to the local are museum, or simply share with your preschooler or kindergartener works by your own favorite artist.

Lisa Raphael

Director, Park Street Academy

Montclair, NJ

Montclair’s Park Street Academy celebrated “Community Helpers” in October by teaching children about the world around them through a variety of special guests and programming.

Beginning with a visit from Officer Batelli of the Bloomfield Police Department, children learned about the various ways that police officers help the community in daily life. Officer Batelli, also a PSA parent, spoke about his job as a police officer, how his job is to help keep people safe, and what to do if you’re lost or need help: always look for a police officer in uniform!

Read Full Article on Baristanet.com

In an ever-changing world it is increasingly important to teach our children to embrace differences.  Learning tolerance and understanding cultural diversity begins at home. Parents and caregivers are a child’s first teachers, and young kids learn so much about the world even before they ever enter an early childhood classroom.  But what’s the best way to teach your child at such a young age about such a grown-up topic?

Young children are more perceptive than we think they are. 

Children begin to notice differences at a very young age and will begin to ask questions without apprehension or shame. We’ve all had that embarrassing moment when our child pointed at someone, shouting for all to hear, asking why that individual looked or sounded different!  Two and three year olds become aware of gender differences and also start noticing and developing a curiosity about skin color, hair color and texture and even more visible physical disabilities.  By the age of three or four, children begin to explore the range of differences within and between racial/ethnic groups and by Kindergarten they start to identify with an ethnic group.

Young children have an inner sense of justice and fairness as they are learning to follow rules at home and in the classroom. In the PBS documentary, Little White Lie, a film about dual identity, race and family secrets, Lacey Schwartz Delgado tells the story about her unusual upbringing and how embracing her racial identity has brought her a modicum of peace. “We live in a society where cultural norms are biased to some people’s experiences, looks, etc., but yet we pretend that they are neutral. Kids notice differences and when we don’t talk about them we are signaling to them that there is something to be avoided about those differences rather than embraced.”

The Colorblind Controversy – does it exist?

You bet, and while intentions are good, we are failing our youth by not providing opportunities for them to learn about and experience other cultures. In trying to be politically correct, we tell ourselves that we are “color blind” because we see everyone simply as humans. More and more schools are banning all celebrations that are connected to culture and have substituted generic seasonal celebrations.  However, by pretending to be all the same, we turn our backs on cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of different ethnicities. Instead of being “color blind” we can better serve our children and our communities by being “color conscious” and aware of racial differences by discussing and acknowledging different cultures’ struggles, values, traditions and triumphs.

 

How can parents teach their children to embrace diversity?
  •   Start when your child is young!
  •  Find teachable moments, such as breaking the stereotype of pink as a “girl color” and blue as a “boy color,” or talking to your child when he/she sees a person in a wheelchair or wearing ethnic clothing that is different than theirs.
  • Listen to music in the car or home from your culture as well as others.
  • If your child loves to play dress up, incorporate regalia worn by other ethnicities.
  • Sample foods from other countries.
  • Have a globe in your home to show your child the location of where something newsworthy happened.
  • Encourage your child to have a pen pal from another country.
  • Attend cultural events around the community with your family.
  • Read multicultural books to your children!

Books that celebrate diversity:

Round Is a Mooncake, by Jenny Thong

A curious young girl explores her home and neighborhood and marvels at objects that are different shapes—a round rice bowl, a square pizza box, and a rectangular cell phone—which are also a clever reflection of the traditional Chinese and American cultures that enrich her world. (Ages 2–5)

Stinky the Bulldog, by Jackie Valent

Stinky is a lovable little bulldog that moves to a new neighborhood.  The mama bulldog teaches Stinky a valuable lesson in not judging others in this colorful picture book.

The Sneeches, by Dr. Seuss (Ages 3-5)

In this story, the star-belly and plain-belly Sneeches learn that neither type is superior and that they are able to get along and become friends.

The Color of Us, by Karen Katz

This story explores how everyone in the neighborhood is a different shade of brown – from peanut butter to chocolate – and does a great job of subtly explaining that people are all different shades of the same color.

Why Am I Different?, By Norma Simon

The book outlines the variety of ways people can be different from each other including hair color, size, language and family.

It’s OK to be Different?, By Todd Parr

The book outlines the variety of ways people can be different from each other including hair color, size, language and family.

 The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

This unforgettable classic, with its indelible collage illustrations, follows snow-suited little boy Peter as he explores the beautiful transformation his city undergoes after a heavy snow. We read it as kids, and our kids will hopefully read it to their kids. (Ages 3–5)

The Good Luck Cat, by Joy Harjo

This sweet, warmly illustrated book tells the story of a contemporary Native American girl and her lucky cat, Woogie, who has used up 8 of his 9 lives when he suddenly disappears. Will he make it back to her? (Spoiler alert for parents—he totally does.) (Ages 3–7)

Something Beautiful, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

The moving tale of a young African American girl who, dispirited by the ugliness she sees in her neighborhood, seeks to find “something beautiful,” and is inspired by those around her to see the beauty in everyday sights and objects. The gorgeous illustrations will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. (Ages 3–7)

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, by Sanjay Patel

A zingy, delightful interpretation of a classic tale from Hindu mythology, this book will hook children with its eye-popping illustrations and compelling blend of traditional Hindu lore with a contemporary flair. (Ages 4–8)

My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Callie’s twin brother Charlie is very dear to her, but he’s also very different from her, especially in one important way: Charlie has autism. There are many things that he can do very well, and other things he needs some help with. This loving story celebrates the special bond that siblings have and offers a glimpse into the world and family of a child on the autism spectrum. (Ages 4–8)

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, by Monica Brown

A Peruvian-Scottish-American spitfire, Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and brown skin, wears polka dots with stripes, and brings peanut butter and jelly burritos to school for lunch. And that’s the way she likes it…that is, until she begins to feel self-conscious about the way she stands out. Will she take the other children seriously when they try to tease her into fitting in with everyone else? Or will she take her kindly teacher’s advice and continue to be her wonderful self? (Ages 4–8)

 Music CD’s that celebrate diversity:

 Putumayo Kids:

  • Putumayo Kids Presents African Playground
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Latin Playground
  • Putumayo Kids Presents European Playground
  • Putumayo Kids Presents World Playground
  • Putumayo Kids Presents French Café
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Café Cubano
  • Putumayo Kids Presents India
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Zydeco
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Acoustic Africa
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Arabic Groove
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Celtic Dreamland
  • Putumayo Kids Presents Islands
  • Putumayo Kids Presents World Sing Along
  • Travel the World With Putumayo

Lisa Raphael

Director, Park Street Academy

Montclair, NJ

May 3, 2016 at 1:05 PM

On Thursday, April 21st, forty PSA preschoolers and kindergarteners experienced a day in the life of a worm through the Greater Newark Conservancy’s program “Worm in the City: Urban Recyclers.”  Shahira Morell and Amarilys Olivio gave a presentation on urban farming and the children discovered how these wriggling creatures turn garbage into compost.  Students were able to use stereo-microscopes to examine an active worm bin, a worm’s anatomy and life cycle.

“Environmental education not only inspires students and cultivates minds, but it fosters critical thinking, problem solving, and student collaboration,” notes Judith L. Shipley, Urban Environmental Center Field Trip Guide of the Greater Newark Conservancy.

Read The Full Article on TapInto.net

Rethinking Superhero Play for Preschoolers 

You’re in the kitchen and out of nowhere your three-year old daughter and four-year old son come flying into the room adorning their capes screaming that they are after the bad guys. As they run out to continue their search, you feel that pit in your stomach.  While you’re happy they are getting along and playing together, you can’t help but worry that this superhero play could turn into aggressive behavior in other situations. If this sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone.

But what if superhero play could actually be a good thing?  What if this play, which we all know is inevitable, couldprovide a valuable opportunity for young children to learn about helping others?  As it turns out, this really can bethe case!

Why the Superhero Fascination?

Think about it. If you’re a toddler or preschooler, your life choices are limited. Pretending to be a superhero is one way for kids to feel as powerful as adults. “This type of play allows children to feel in control and invincible at a time when developmentally they might be feeling just theopposite,” says Erica Pelavin, an individual and family therapist in Palo Alto, Calif.  In addition, taking on another persona gives them a chance to “try on” different personalities.  Many children have difficulty understanding and/or expressing their feelings. Pretending to be a superhero can make it easier for an otherwise intimidated, shy or fearful child to express his or her feelings.

The Positive Power of Superheroes!

Preschool children have a strong sense of right and wrong.  There are no shades of grey and very little room for negotiation.  Pretending to be a superhero with extraordinary powers can provide an opportunity for children to learn to deal with issues of fairness, justice, human rights, and caring. Here are some ways to foster healthy superhero play:

  • Talk with your child about the “good guys” by using words that describe good qualities, such as kindness, determination & selflessness. Reinforce that these qualities don’t always require physical strength.
  • Remind your child that while Spiderman is really cool and helps people, he is a fantasy character.  Point out the differences between what a fantasy character with super-human abilities can do and what a real person can do.
  • Talk with your preschooler about real-life heroes, such as police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, and other community helpers.
  • Establish rules for playing superheroes, such as no pointing sticks or “weapons” at a person, using inappropriate language or touching another person’s body.

To extend your child’s superhero play, why not take it outside the playroom?  Doing acts of kindness in the real world not only extends learning, but makes both you and your child true super heroes.

Lisa Raphael

Director, Park Street Academy

Montclair, NJ

Until recently, the term “redshirting” referred to postponing a college athlete’s participation in regular season games for the period of one year.  Theoretically, the additional time would allow him/her an extra year of growth, as well as practice with the team in hopes of improving the player’s skills for the following year.

Now redshirting has now found its way to the preschool population.  Parents of preschool children with summer or early-Fall birthdays, who just make the kindergarten cut-off and thus could become the youngest in the class, are forced to examine the possibility of following this paradigm shift.

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell has shared his ideas about it on 60 Minutesparenting blogs are constantly debating the issue – and even the Wall Street Journal and New York Times continue to examine the whether the practice ultimately does more harm than good to our children and our school system.

Current research on redshirting is inconclusive as to its’ long-term effectiveness and clearly needs further long – term studies.  As always in life, either decision has its’ pros and cons as well as complications in both the individual student and education as a whole.  For me, it has always been about the child in question and more importantly…the whole child.  A child is not an arbitrary age, but a unique person whose cognitive, emotional and social needs need to be treasured, protected, challenged and grown in the very best way possible.

As parents, we all know that you can have multiple children living in your home, being raised by the same set of parents, yet individually very different.  Case in point, my 3 children.  Two of my kids were winter babies so the issue of kindergarten placement was moot.  My middle daughter, however, was a different story in all areas.  Born late August in1992, she barely made the kindergarten cut off. Redshirting was not yet on the grid and in fact, the trend was to move kids ahead.  As the school year progressed, it became clear that she was not up to speed.  Her fine motor skills were poor and she was becoming very frustrated with homework, often throwing down her pencil in tears.  She was the only child who was not yet a fully emergent reader and though her emotional intelligence was high with adults, she was unable to fully socially connect with her peers.  As a special education teacher, it was difficult to witness; as a mother it was devastating.

So began my fight with the principals, teachers and even my husband.  After all, what did I know?  I was a special education teacher and therefore biased to what I was seeing.  I was overreacting as because I was a neurotic mother.  To make a very long story short, 3 years and 2 public school principals later, I took my daughter to a private school.  After her screening, the head master came up to me with a worried look and cautiously told me that in her opinion, my daughter should really repeat the third grade.

I didn’t know whether to cry or scream!  I did neither, and my daughter enrolled as a third grader that year. After she completed three years of private school, she re-entered our public middle school.  It was rough for a while, but as she progressed through her high school years, she became socially, emotionally and academically confident.  Her high school career was filled with really good, long lasting friends, a spot on the varsity cheerleading and competition squad and, best of all, good grades.   She has studied abroad for a semester in Florence, continuously been on the Dean’s List at the University of Rhode Island and graduated just last year.  I couldn’t be more proud!

The following are some points for parents to consider when making this difficult decision:

  • Keep in mind your child’s uniqueness.  Be clear of his/her characteristics as this should be the guiding factor behind your decision…not merely his/her possibility of being one of the youngest in the class.  Is he/she is overly shy, apprehensive, lacking physical coordination, experiencing difficulty following directions, and easily frustrated?  If so, holding back and starting kindergarten a year later is something you need to strongly consider.
  •  Plan a visit to your child’s perspective kindergarten classroom.  Speak to the teacher and principal as to the expectations regarding academic readiness so you can get an idea of how your child will fare.
  • Talk with your child’s preschool teachers.  Do they feel he/she is ready to begin kindergarten? They will be able to provide you with insights that only they can see as professionals who are working with your child and others in the classroom setting.

Once you have armed yourself with all the information you need to make the best decision you can make, take a deep breath!  While no one can predict the future, take stock in the fact that you have made the best decision at that time.  It’s a long journey.  Try to enjoy the ride and celebrate all the wonderful milestones ahead of you and your preschooler!

WRITTEN BY LISA RAPHAEL ON FEBRUARY 04, 2016 VIA BLOGHER

Whether in the classroom or at home, tattling can drive adults crazy! We all want children to have the ability to solve problems on their own. However, what we often forget is the complexity of the social/emotional skills involved in problem solving.

Young children with only a few years of life experience and brain development are just beginning to be in environments where they are expected to negotiate, share and all the other aspects of social problem solving.

First Things First … Understanding Why Kids Tattle:

Young children resort to tattling for a variety of reasons, both at home and in school. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The Rule Follower: Preschool and kindergarten children are constantly learning rules at home and in the classroom. They are developing morals, trying to figure out right from wrong, consequences for broken rules and what it means to be fair. Young kids tend to be very literal, as their cognitive development cannot recognize abstract reasoning yet. They are concrete in their thinking and are expecting the rules to be inflexible and are compelled to tell an adult when an infraction occurs.
  • The Power Player: The “Power Player” wants to be in control. He/she may have a need for power by controlling the teacher/parent through by tattling.
  • The Attention-Getter: Children as well as adults have a right to feel that they are a valuable person in their home and classroom community. As young children are finding their place, they ask for affirmation by tattling.
Tattling … Tale or Truth?

Our concern as teachers, parents and caretakers is to help children reconcile their conflicting perceptions, NOT to find out whose version is true! Let’s face it — unless we SEE the incident, we really have no idea who is telling the truth!

Although tattling happens, there are ways we can help to minimize this behavior. First, acknowledge your child’s feelings when he comes to you with concerns about a sibling or peer. It is important that he/she has opportunities to vent and feel validated. Second, take opportunities when you are playing with your child to promote taking turns and give them the chance to make choices and problem solve. Finally, teach your child to differentiate between a problem and a real emergency through puppets, role-play and discussions – based on their age level of development.

Tattling, “Do’s and Don’ts”

Though tattling is annoying, frustrating and sometimes worrisome if a child is a habitual tattler, adults need to see beyond the action of tattling and understand that he/she is indirectly asking for help. Here are a few suggestions for how parents can mitigate this behavior and survive this phase:

Do:

  • Assess the situation to make sure that no one is physically hurt.
  • Remain calm and listen to the child’s concerns, even if he/she tattles often.
  • Acknowledge that the child is upset. He/she needs to know their concerns and feelings were heard.
  • Ask the child if his/her issue is a problem or a true emergency.
  • Teach problem solving skills by asking if the child tried to work it out with the other child(ren) and if he/she needs your help.
  • Mediate by asking the child what he/she can do to solve the problem (play with someone else; ask the other child(ren) to stop the behavior that is bothersome or hurtful).

Don’t:

  • Attempt to figure out who is telling the truth.  It doesn’t really matter, and it’s not what is at the heart of the issue.
  • Compare kids/siblings.  This just fuels feelings of resentment, anxiety, anger and inadequacy.
  • Ask who started it. Your job is to mediate and getting the truth to this question is pointless and next to impossible.

For more information on how parents and kids can better manage tattle-related issues, check out the following books on the subject:

The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others, by Bob Sornson, Maria Dismondy & Kim Shaw

Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal: A Tale of Tattletales, by Jeanie Franz Ransom & Jackie Urbanovic

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue, by Julia Cook

Tattlin’ Madeline, by Carol Cummings, Ph.D