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City and Country School Marks 100 Years in the Village With Exhibit

 An exhibit at Jefferson Market Library showcases City & Country School's 100 years in the neighborhood.
City and Country School Exhibit at Jefferson Market Library
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GREENWICH VILLAGE — One of Village's oldest institutions is celebrating its 100th year in the neighborhood.

City and Country School, which pioneered the idea that children learn through play, is marking its centennial with an exhibit at Jefferson Market Library at 425 Sixth Ave., featuring photos and objects dating back to the school's founding.

"We wanted to spread the riches of our archives with the community," said City & Country School principal Kate Turley.

The school was founded by Caroline Pratt, an educator who "saw play as being the 'work' of children," Turley said.

"Caroline Pratt had a whole vision of how children learned," said Turley. "It was very radical thinking on her part."

The exhibit includes the wooden blocks that were a core element of Pratt's ideology and are now used in early childhood classrooms around the world. It also features maps of the neighborhood students made in the 1940s, as well as books that the older students made to help the younger ones learn.

The school, which started at 14 MacDougal Alley but has been at its 146 W. 13th St. location since 1921, was originally called The Play School, until the students approached Pratt in 1921 and told her they wanted to change the name.

"The children felt that to call it The Play School did not take their work seriously enough," Turley explained.

City and Country now has 365 students ranging in age from 2 to 13 years, who each have a "job" that serves the school community. The third-graders, for example, run the store that holds all the school's supplies, and the 12-year-olds are assistants in the 4-year-olds' classrooms.

Turley said the artists living in the Village helped inspire Pratt's vision for the school. 

"The school drew upon the artistic community in the neighborhood at the time," Turley said. "It was bohemia — it was a time of lots of free thinkers. Those were all the people who were her friends and neighbors at the time."

Pete Seeger taught at the school for two years, and was remembered fondly by the school community when he died earlier this year. Jackson Pollock had a brief stint there as a janitor, while his brother Charles Pollock taught art, Turley said.

The Jefferson Market Library exhibit is kid-friendly, with books and blocks for children to play with in addition to the photos and objects that are on view.

"A Century of Learning From Children: Highlights from the City and Country School Archives" is on display at Jefferson Market Library, 425 Sixth Ave., from May 14 to May 22. Library hours are Monday and Wednesday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The library is closed on Sunday.