The Washington Market School (WMS) is a non-profit, non-sectarian Preschool and Kindergarten for children ages 2 to 5. The goals of our school are to develop children’s self-confidence, independence, and concentration, and to nurture their inherent interest in learning and creativity.
WMS has been an integral part of our unique neighborhood, which was originally known as The Washington Market, since it was founded in 1976 by Ronnie Moskowitz, M.A.T, M.S.Ed., L.C.S.W. (who remains active as the Head of School.) The first class of 12 students met in her nearby loft, and with the support of local artists and early neighborhood pioneers, WMS has grown and thrived over the years, receiving our charter as a non-profit organization from the New York State Department of Education in May, 1981.
We operate two separate, but related, school sites, serving nearly 350 children in the 2011-2012 school year. Our main site, for children between the ages of 2 ¾ and 5 years old, opened at 55 Hudson Street in 1988. In 1992, in response to community requests for a program where children could attend part-time and did not have to be toilet-trained, we opened our second site (for toddlers between the ages of 2 and 4 years old) at 134 Duane Street. In 2001, we doubled the capacity at this site by annexing an adjacent space at 136 Duane Street.
In 2003, we expanded the Hudson Street site by adding two classrooms. With the completion of our new Library in 2009, our children have well-designed spaces for Studio Specials, including drama, music, movement, art, and chess. In 2010 we completed yet another expansion at the Duane Street site—adding two new classrooms, a gym, and rooms for music and art.
The Washington Market School is the first and remains the only non-profit Montessori-affiliated Early Childhood Center on the Lower West Side. Our program blends the creative educational experience of an open classroom with the supportive guidance and structure of a challenging Montessori-based curriculum, timetable and drive to learn about life. It combines engaging materials and activities with the individual freedom, social experiences, and adult guidance necessary for each child to fulfill his/her own developmental needs.
Since 2006, we have also embraced the innovative preschool programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Reggio Emilia philosophy emphasizes children’s competency and ability to construct their own knowledge through in-depth investigation and research. Children are encouraged to depict their understanding through one of many symbolic languages, including drawing, sculpture, dramatic play and writing. Documenting the children’s schoolwork is a significant aspect of this approach to learning: Through writing, photographs and video, teachers capture and interpret the different learning experiences in the classroom. This, in turn, allows them to reflect on the children’s ongoing exploration and helps them plan the next course of study. Children enjoy sharing their ongoing ideas and experiences, which are preserved and valued. Documentation is also an important tool to connect parents to the classroom, allowing them to trace the progress of their children’s work.
As WMS has grown in scope and size, we continue to be blessed with a talented, dedicated, and hard-working faculty who arrive early and stay late, dreaming up new ways to make sure that each child’s learning experience is a positive, joyful one. Our teachers attend courses and workshops on their own time to enrich themselves and, consequently, the children.
As an independent, non-profit school, we are supported solely by tuition payments. We maintain an active tuition assistance program, which enables us to enroll families who are eligible for financial aid under the guidelines of School and Student Services. We also accept tuition vouchers from eligible families under the guidelines of the NYC Administration for Children’s Service/Agency for Child Development. To support these programs, we plan a wide range of fun, family-oriented fundraising events throughout the year, and all families are encouraged to participate.
WMS belongs to the American Montessori Society; the Early Childhood Council of New York City; Child Care, Inc.; the Parents League; the Independent Schools Admission Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY); the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance; and the Downtown Early Childhood Association. We maintain close links with local elementary schools PS 3, PS 41, PS 11, PS 89, PS150, PS 234, PS 276, and PS 397, as well as with all of the Independent Schools in Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. We are currently accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
We are extremely proud of our accomplishments over the past three and a half decades, and we look forward to continued exploration, fun, and learning.