Tag Archive | "Our Sons and Daughters"

Methodist Church Closer to Adding Pre-K

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Much to the chagrin of two of its neighbors, the Sag Harbor Methodist Church is moving right along with plans to open its basement classroom space to Our Sons and Daughters preschool program. If all goes according to plan, the 12-student program, for children ages 3 to 7, would be housed at the church starting this September.

“We’ve heard from other property owners that there’s been a positive impact on the area because of the church,” said Diane Lavery, an attorney for the church, at a Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meetings last Thursday, April 5. “Since the church has been there, property values have increased.”

Neighor Pam Wright staunchly disagreed.

“There’s going to be more commercial traffic to the area: supplies being dropped off, trash being picked up… It’s going to [negatively] affect our property values,” she said. “This church has already affected our neighborhood.”

Wright and her neighbor Linda Velsor, who also attended last week’s meeting, expressed concern with the notion of increased traffic in the area due to an added preschool/kindergarten program on site. While Lavery explained the 13-student school doesn’t intend to grow any larger than 30 students, that didn’t sit well with Wright and Velsor, who also worried about the potential for more growth—including summer programs.

Again, Lavery attempted to quell their concern.

“The summer camp is run at the Ludlow Farm, and [Our Sons and Daughters] plans to do that in the future,” she explained. And as for the increased population at the church, Lavery further noted that the school has board meetings four times a year, bringing about four to five people in each time, as well as one monthly administrative meeting for which 10 to 12 people typically show up.

Adding to a laundry list of complaints, Velsor said she is also concerned with the level of noise during school hours when the kids go outside for recess.

“It’s a situation that we want to be aware of,” she added. “Because children at that age are not quiet when they’re outside.”

That may be true, Pastor Tom Mcleod noted, but he said the outdoor area was strategically built 8 feet below grade for that very reason: to stifle noise. In fact, the church had been considering holding its own Sunday School or pre-school programs on its grounds when the church was initially constructed. Mcleod said he was very conscious of the noise issue, and made sure the outdoor play area was constructed below grade so that it would have natural noise buffers.

“These kids would have to be having a major rock concert to be heard on Carroll Street,” he added.

Finally, Velsor expressed disappointment over the notion of increased traffic that would be brought by the new school. “I feel the increase in traffic on that road would be very hazardous to the area,” said Velsor, who lives on Carroll Street. “Cars come down faster than the speed limit, and they go racing up Carroll Street.”

However, as attorney Lavery explained, the planning board already adopted the building plan, which allowed the church to create a building with an occupancy of 200.

“We’re only talking about adding 13 additional cars to an existing 65-parishioner church,” she said. “We’re not talking about enlarging the impact.”

Board member Adam Grossman said he understood Velsor’s concerns, but added “I’m not sure what we can do to address traffic except not issue the variance.”

More importantly, he said the planning board is in support of the project. Planning Board Chair Herbert Phillips added that for this 128,000-square-foot lot—which can legally be divided into eight spaces—“to have an accessory use there really isn’t a burden.”

The ZBA is currently waiting for the final SEQRA determination to be approved by the Southampton Town Planning Board before it makes its final decision.

Before moving on to the next issue, board member David Reilly addressed the two women: “I have a feeling your parade of horribles is just not going to come to fruition,” he said.

New School Sprouts in Bridgehampton

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Since 2008, a small group of children have gathered at the Ludlow Farm in Mecox, spending their days enthralled in a summer camp focused on the outdoors, art, imaginative free play and gathering together engaged in simple rituals like making vegetable soup and homemade bread for snack time.

Directed by Lisa Bono, a certified and experienced Waldorf trained early childhood educator and the founding teacher of New Amsterdam Early Childhood Center in New York City, last year Our Sons and Daughters expanded into an early childhood program for parents and children at a private home. This year, after incorporating and applying to the New York State Education Department for a provisional charter, the organization hopes to create a private pre-school with facilities at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.

According to lead childhood center teacher Maggie Touchette, Our Sons and Daughters will open this fall as a day care while awaiting approvals from the state for recognition as an early childhood program. Currently boasting 10 children, Touchette said for this school year the program may have just one or two slots available, and as the program grows she would like to see a maximum of 15 students next year.

In addition to the early childhood education program, Our Sons and Daughters will also continue to offer its parent-child class led by educator Ann Jones.

Touchette, who earned her bachelors at Fordham University in English simultaneously gaining her teaching certificate before completing a Masters in Education at the same institution, said the movement towards creating a Waldorf-inspired pre-school on the East End was born out of the desires of a handful of parents familiar with the philosophy.

Waldorf education, also known as Steiner-Waldorf education, is focused on interdisciplinary, experiential learning with the arts, the use of imagination and practical chores used as the basis for giving each young child the tools to develop their own unique being.

“I think one of the things that draws parents to it is it is an arts based program and a play based program, but it takes child development into account and each child as an individual into account,” said Touchette. “One of the things I try and work with is letting each child be who they are and not label or judge them — what is wrong, or what is right, but take them for who they are, not put my expectations or their parents’ expectations on them, but just be with them and see where they are in the moment.”

An established rhythm to each day is also key, said Touchette, in enabling each child the freedom of not having to question what they will be doing throughout the day, despite the fact that activities are diverse.

While Touchette is still working on the fall curriculum, in the last year children have started their day at Our Sons and Daughters greeted by Touchette quietly working, either chopping vegetables for that day’s snack, folding the class laundry from the day before, or knitting.

“They can help me or they can go into free play, because we think play is very important for the young child,” she said. “It’s deeply important in their education to have that time and experience.”

The classroom space is crucial to free play becoming more than a group of young children plowing through toys, but is designed with soft walls, cast in a soothing pink, with soft rugs and nooks available for relaxing and toys made from natural materials like wood, sheepwool and stones. Many of the toys are designed in free form, lending to play time focused on using the imagination rather than pressing an electronic button to hear a new sound.

After free play, the children are engaged in an activity, whether it be water colors or making homemade bread or soup for a snack. That is followed by more free play, and then clean-up time before the children enjoy rhythmic musical games in circle time. A homemade snack is enjoyed, and the children help wash dishes before an hour of outdoor play. The day is completed with story time or a puppet show.

“As we transition from one activity to another we do it through song, which makes the children feel like they are not being rushed around, not being told what to do,” she said.

Touchette said leasing space from The Hayground School, after searching the East End for right location, came after touring  and feeling welcomed by the faculty and staff at Hayground.

“We just felt the people working there have a great love for their work and for education,” she said. “Our curriculum and our pedagogy might not be the same, but I feel we can be with them, and it is just a beautiful space.”

Touchette said the idea of expanding the pre-school, when approved, into a full fledged elementary school is a source of constant conversation within the Our Sons and Daughters community, but while it may be a goal, it is something they will address after getting the early childhood program off the ground.

“One of the things I have really loved about this, one of the things that has impressed me, is that we have grown this beautiful little community,” said Touchette. “We had a picnic at the Ludlow farm the other day and it was so nice to see everyone together and what a family we have become.”

For more information on Our Sons and Daughters, visit, www.oursonsanddaughters.org.