«OUR HISTORY The first green sprouts of what is now the New Amsterdam School appeared in the spring of 2006, when a grassroots alliance of educators, ...»
The CAMPAIGN for NEW AMSTERDAM SCHOOL
Building a Grade School: A Case for Support
The New Amsterdam School is about to enter an exciting new phase that will help us better serve our children,
families, and our mission. This document outlines our goals, plans, and challenges as we travel this promising and
vital phase of our school’s journey. We welcome your ideas and help.
We want to be pioneers for a future educational system. We want to be pioneers in the sense that
we do not believe that a few external changes will lead to a better social condition, but that a change must occur at the heart of science, art, and education to bring about the desired condition of humanity.
A real education takes care that body, soul, and spirit will be intrinsically free and independent. And real education takes care to put people into life.
"Rudolf Steiner OUR HISTORY The first green sprouts of what is now the New Amsterdam School appeared in the spring of 2006, when a grassroots alliance of educators, parents, and community leaders met to establish Waldorf education for young children in downtown Manhattan.
Two remarkable individuals were largely responsible for establishing the school and guiding it through the early years. Chris Huson—a Waldorf father, banker, and education reformer—dreamed of bringing Waldorf education downtown and was the driving force behind gathering together a group of like-minded parents and teachers. Lisa Bono, a dedicated Waldorf educator, shared this dream. In November of 2006, “Miss Lisa” offered the first weekly parent-child classes in a memorable Chelsea space. Originally known as A Child’s Haven, the fledgling school flourished. In January 2009 we added classes for young children from birth to age seven, and the school moved to its current location in the East Village in September 2010.
: www.newamsterdamchildhood.org : 212.982.1400 :
: 1 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009-8036 :
OUR PRESENT, OUR FOUNDATION
A NEW AMSTERDAM EDUCATIONAt the New Amsterdam School, our priority is to help children grow to their fullest physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity. We wish our children to be elevated by their ideas, to give with their hearts, and to create with their hands. In the early years we provide a natural, home-like environment with warm and nurturing teachers who awaken the innate love of life, nature, and exploration in the child. Wholesome food, all-season outdoor play, movement, and creative handwork are hallmarks of the Waldorf classroom. As the children grow and mature the education gently moves from concrete experiences to the abstract.
A sensation envelops you as you enter the space the children call school. Some call it a sanctuary of stillness.
Yet it’s sprinkled with the bubbly curiosity of youth. The visitor sees children at home, yet away from home, at ease with themselves and each other, inventing, creating, discovering.
We provide an environment for children to learn by doing things that inherently bring deep understanding and satisfy innate curiosity. Our children move with timeless rhythms to allow their minds to awaken in good time, gently building confidence in their sense of place in the world and their potential for partnership with it. The children are permitted genuine inquiry, unhurried by circumstance, confident in its character, and joyful in its expression. The profound result of this freedom is uninhibited learning.
With the solid foundation of an early childhood education, the child has a sure sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-direction. Academic work is built on this secure footing. Reading, writing, and mathematics come easily in their time. For years, the teacher has demonstrated a profound appreciation for beauty, both in art and in the natural world. The Waldorf student sees beauty in these subjects without being told they are beautiful.
Reading and writing emerge as the visible outcropping of the child’s imaginative capacity. The written word becomes the symbolic expression of stories the children know in their hearts, stories they have celebrated, shared, and created. The study of mathematics, too, is built upon the sturdy pillar of imagination. Numbers emerge as both toolbox and art form, capable of quantifying phenomena both fundamental and mysterious and qualifying the beauty of familiar patterns and cycles. Geometry, which celebrates the gorgeous symmetry and profound structure of shapes and solids both created and discovered, naturally captivates the Waldorf child.
Learning lasts because it has surfaced from within, not from without. A Waldorf child holds knowledge in both head and heart. At New Amsterdam, children are allowed to learn, not rushed to perform. They approach school with confidence and creativity. This makes the classroom experience personal, permanent, and rewarding. A Waldorf graduate takes learning, and life, as a gift, one that should be explored, explained, and expressed with appreciation. With this gratitude comes a graceful approach to discovery, discernment, and mastery.
OUR UNIQUE COMMUNITY
Waldorf schools all over the world are founded with the intention of social renewal. The holistic education of the young child, the parent, and the teacher together create the foundation for a healthy society, one capable of reform and progress. To this end, every Waldorf school works as a community of teachers and parents in deed and spirit. In seven years, we have seen our unique community grow, not only in numbers but also in the depth of our connections. When we harness the work of the teachers with the gifts of time, creativity, and energy of the parents, the result is a meaningful and resilient community. This is the ineffable magic and the tangible power of a Waldorf education.
Our community includes more than 100 families in the parent-child, pre-school, and kindergarten programs. In 2013, we added an afternoon nursery program and additional parent-child classes. Joining this community offers parents unique support in New York City. Many modern parents strive to offer a serene environment for children, including outdoor play, good food, and minimal exposure to media. These efforts are much easier with the support of a Waldorf school and community. We also offer support, both practical and profound, for the growth and development of parents as individuals. Through seasonal family festivals, conversation, study, movement, and arts, the whole family—child, parents, even caregivers—benefits from a Waldorf school.
The New Amsterdam School values diversity. We actively seek a student body reflecting the ethnic, racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity of our downtown community. One way we demonstrate this commitment is by dedicating a portion of the annual operating budget to need-based financial assistance. The New Amsterdam School is also dedicated to the principle and the practice of transparency. Sharing and openness are an essential part of our program, our community life, and our success.
A “GREEN” SCHOOL The New Amsterdam School is at the forefront of the “eco-schools” movement. As the U.S. Green Building Council writes, Green schools are more than buildings. They are places where children learn the wonders of the world and teachers prepare the next generation of leaders and citizens. These schools are built and operated to be full of clean air and sunlight and to be free of toxic materials and harmful chemicals. Green schools are energy efficient, helping to lower utility costs, conserve resources and reduce waste. Green schools showcase a community's commitment to its children and their future, who in turn learn from an early age the importance and benefits of acting as responsible stewards of their communities and the larger world.
The New Amsterdam curriculum treats ecology as a fundamental—not a secondary—part of the child’s education. The curriculum itself is seasonal, with an emphasis on the outdoor world brought into the classroom.
The school has carefully nurtured a unique partnership with El Jardin del Paraiso, our spacious community garden, where children make daily excursions throughout the year to play outdoors, rain or shine.
The entire school is a “green” environment. Our current and proposed spaces incorporate a myriad of sustainable practices, including natural daylight from large windows in multiple exposures; energy efficient lighting; excellent indoor-air quality with limited exposure to dust, pollen, and carbon monoxide; green building materials to limit exposure to off-gassing and VOCs; water efficiency; enhanced acoustics and low background noise, which is critical for learning; recycling and composting; and ecological products for cleaning and for first aid.
There is a nutrition crisis in schools. Snacks and lunches are made of processed and packaged foods, including sweetened drinks and baked goods made with refined grains and sugar. In Waldorf schools, by contrast, the dedication to good food, to gardening, and to ecological farming is almost a century old. Every day in every classroom, teachers prepare fresh meals from whole, organic, and often local and seasonal ingredients, and they cook these fresh meals with even the youngest children. The daily preparation of the meal and the time spent at the table teach children to appreciate food as well as encouraging a sense of shared responsibility.
THE SCHOOL SHORTAGE DOWNTOWN
In addition to a unique curriculum and strong community, the New Amsterdam School meets a pressing need for more school spaces in downtown Manhattan, where independent schools are much less prevalent than uptown, and where a boom in the population of children under five years old has overwhelmed existing school facilities.
Public school and independent school officials alike are scrambling to build more spaces as they turn away disappointed parents. In the district New Amsterdam shares with public schools, admission directors regularly put children who live in that school district on the kindergarten waiting list.
Public schools that attempt to accept every child within the zone are extremely crowded, with 25 to 35 children per classroom. Lunch hours, time for outdoor play, and movement classes are reduced for lack of space and time; many children are taught in temporary trailers. These challenging trends make the uncluttered classroom, high teacher-to-pupil ratio, and commitment to time outdoors and to physical movement at New Amsterdam more valuable than ever.
Young applicants overwhelm independent schools, too. One new school, an $85 million for-profit start-up called Avenues, had 350 applications for 25 kindergarten slots. New Amsterdam faces a similar challenge, one made more urgent by the unique education we offer downtown. With a larger space and new grade school, New Amsterdam can meet this demand.
The New Amsterdam School has already changed many lives. Now we have the opportunity and privilege to build on this success and to offer a comprehensive Waldorf education through eighth grade. The board, faculty and administration, and parent community have separately and collectively endorsed the creation of a grade school.
A CALL TO ACTION
It was Rudolf Steiner’s vision that a truly holistic education would someday be available to children around the world. Over the last 90 years, the generosity of individuals who shared this vision has transformed that dream into a reality. Waldorf education is the fastest-growing independent school movement in the world with more than 1,000 schools and 1,600 early childhood programs in 58 countries.
As the New Amsterdam School enters its eighth year, we have arrived at an exciting turning point. We are poised to add a first grade to our thriving nursery and kindergarten program in September 2014. With a strong foundation in place and powerful community intentions, we can offer New York City children an exceptional Waldorf education for years to come.
The unique advantages of a Waldorf education are of particular value to children in New York City, where the school provides a refuge from the chaos, noise, and stress of an urban, media-saturated culture. Indeed, so many New York families would like to offer their children the benefits of a Waldorf education that demand far exceeds the capacity of existing Waldorf schools. The New Amsterdam School will help fill this need.
A SENSIBLE FINANCIAL FOUNDATION
New Amsterdam has generally operated with a balanced budget, leaning towards a slight surplus each year. Therefore, early in the school’s life, we were able to build a small but steady cash reserve. As a young and growing school, New Amsterdam had to take on increasing expenses in late 2010, in order to acquire the large space at One Avenue B, hire more faculty, and offer kindergarten classes. These moves led to an operating deficit in the fiscal year ending in June 2011. With sound financial planning, trustees were able to cushion the deficit with the cash reserve, and the school returned to an operating surplus in 2012.
Our next phase of growth will require a major infusion of capital and operating dollars and the campaign will help bridge the first few years as we grow in admissions and families. We chose a financially conservative, methodical, and phased plan for long-term, solid growth.
The New Amsterdam School is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It does not receive any funds from local, state, or federal government. Charitable organizations broadly improve public life, often inspiring advances and innovations that are later widely adopted. As a contributor to the New Amsterdam School, you support an institution devoted not only to pioneering work in education, but also to environmental stewardship, local economic development, ethical accountability, and social renewal.
Phase I $2.5 Million September 2013 to September 2014 These funds will be used to maintain our current location at One Avenue B and to pay for expansion into an additional space to accommodate the school’s immediate needs.
We are now in lease negotiations on a new space located at 62 Avenue B at 5th Street in Manhattan. The building formerly housed Cabrini Eldercare, and has been converted to residential apartments on the upper floors and retail space on the ground floor. New Amsterdam will occupy the entire ground floor retail space (4,700 rsf) and part of the cellar level (3,300 rsf). We will have a private entrance with a canopy and some outdoor space for planters, bikes, scooters, etc. We anticipate building five or six large classrooms; a large multi-purpose room for specialty classes, assemblies, and performances; faculty and administrative offices; a kitchen; and a lounge. The space has large windows on three sides allowing ample daylight for every class. Our design will reflect the aesthetics and warmth we value in our current space, while giving us more flexibility as our needs change. The proximity to our current school, to the garden, and to Tompkins Square makes this new space a perfect fit for our growing community.
The new space will support our immediate needs—given the growing parent-child, bridge, nursery, and kindergarten classes—and in September 2014 it will welcome our inaugural class of first graders. In each of the following seven years, this class will lead the way toward the eighth grade, and a new class of first graders will begin their journey.
Phase II $7.5 Million September 2014 to September 2023 The first phase of development will provide a fiscally sound foundation for growth and increased admissions.
By the 2018-2019 school year, we will continue to expand towards eighth grade while serving our everincreasing early childhood population.
This stage may unfold in several different ways. Ideally, we would purchase and renovate a building to house the entire school, from early childhood through the grades. Or we could look for a long-term lease in a new larger building.