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Preschool With Focus on Science and Investigation Opening on UWS

By Emily Frost | April 21, 2015 1:43pm
 The new preschool has a focus on science and encouraging children's curiosity, said the founder. 
Inventor's Gate Preschool Opening in the Fall
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A new preschool that's dedicated to science and creative inquiry is opening this fall to serve 2 to 5 year olds, its founder said. 

Inventor's Gate, which will open in September in a 2,700-square-foot space inside the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral on West 82nd Street, is named in honor of a Central Park entrance with the same name on East 72nd Street, as well as honoring the spirit of invention and investigation that is central to the preschool, said founder Anne Zissu. 

The preschool has no affiliation with the church, Zissu said.

Kids will use digital cameras to snap photos of every stage of their projects so they can reflect on their progress and process; they'll be in charge of selecting non-fiction books at the local library and at the new Columbus Avenue book store; and they'll take adventures in Central Park and ask questions about their experiences.

Through these activities, children will learn about the process of research and scientific inquiry at a young age, said Zissu, an economics professor at CUNY's College of Technology who has always dreamed of starting a school. 

Lessons about bird migration, human anatomy, hibernation and photosynthesis will be part of the curriculum, handled in a child-led and playful way, rather than by rote, she said. 

"They’re never too young to have preliminary stories of what really happens in the world," explained Zissu. 

Trips to the American Museum of Natural History, just around the corner, will also factor heavily into the school day, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or until 6 p.m. for the extended day. 

The preschool's large room will be divided into two, with one half of the room devoted to make believe play facilitated by a play kitchen, dolls, blocks and other toys, and the other arranged with small tables for more structured learning. 

Zissu said she's already gotten a lot of questions from parents about which educational philosophy she's following. While the school incorporates elements of the Montessori approach, its philosophy is based more on what Zissu has seen work with her own two children. 

"Rather than an institutional approach, it’s a parents’ approach," she said.

Teaching her children, who are now 16 and 11 years old, to love learning involved lots of science-based exploration and reading them heaps of books, she recounted.

In addition to daily music lessons where the children play instruments and dance along to live piano, they can also take fencing lessons. 

They'll be trained by coaches from the Manhattan Fencing Center who've trained Olympic fencers, said Zissu. 

Children as young as 4 years old can begin fencing with foam weapons and child-size masks. They begin to learn the "actions," the set of moves involved in fencing. 

The lessons are useful because fencing is "the chess of sports," because it involves a lot of strategizing, explained Zissu. 

The admissions policy at the preschool is loose. Families can apply at any time and a formal interview isn't necessary, just a casual meeting at the preschool.

"We’re not going to create this frenzy for parents," said Zissu, who expects to have roughly 40 kids the first year. The preschool can hold up to 88 children legally. 

The 8:30 to 2 p.m. day costs $14,500 a year and the 2 to 6 p.m. program is an additional $10,000.  

Children leaving the preschool will be well-prepared for kindergarten, said Zissu. 

"They’ll be very comfortable with having preliminary reading, comfortable with math, they will demand more learning," she said. 

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