Play & Learn: New City School
Head of school Alexis Wright knows the importance of academic rigor, and also the importance of play. There’s a giant bin of Legos in his office, and eight more at his home down the street. He recently has introduced New City fifth-graders to the infinite possibilities of Lego design, and whenever he’s available, he’s almost always up for an impromptu session of constructing with the little colored bricks. “Being new, it’s been a great way for me to bond with the children,” he says.
Wright took the helm at New City School this summer, having served for seven years both as head of school and dean of children’s programs at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. He says he’s had New City in his sights for quite some time. “This is a school with a local and national reputation,” he says. “It has a rigorous curriculum, puts the needs of children first and is a leader in progressive education. It was absolutely an environment I wanted to be a part of.”
New City’s emphasis on its early childhood program is one of the reasons Wright believes its graduates are exceptional. And it’s a program that places as much importance on a young person’s social and emotional development as their academic growth. “Academic excellence is crucial, but children have to be excellent people, as well,” Wright says. The early years are critical for laying the foundation of integrity, and Wright stresses the importance of teaching children how to socialize and work together, how to be both pragmatic and caring. “The primary work of young children is play, and through play, we help our students work out rules for games, and learn to collaborate, compromise and take care of someone if they are upset,” he says. “Compromise is related to perspective and empathy, and it’s hard to build a relationship with anyone without those things.”
New City’s adherence to the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI), which holds that each child has eight intelligences that need to be nurtured, means that children of all ages are provided with many different ways to learn. “It’s very busy here,” Wright says, describing the math games, water experiments, drawing and dramatic play that can be going on in the pre-primary classroom at any one time. All activities, he says, are grounded in a deep understanding of child development. “Our teachers recognize that all the kids who come to us possess inherent strengths, and they meet the students where they are, designing learning experiences that are appropriate and meaningful,” Wright explains.
The MI curriculum capitalizes on each child’s strengths, appealing to linguistic, mathematical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, inter- and intrapersonal abilities, and in doing so, makes learning joyful. “Our kids learn for the sake of learning, and they leave here [at the end of sixth grade] wanting to achieve, and with firm foundations for the work ahead,” Wright says. “I’m very proud to be leading an institution like this.”
Pictured: Pre-primary teacher Heidi Kehle with students
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
New City School, which serves children age 3 through sixth grade, develops each child’s individual strengths through an integrated multiple intelligences curriculum. Pictured on the cover: Head of School Alexis Wright with pre-primary students. For more information, call 314.361.6411 or visit newcityschool.org.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography