September 20, 2007

Blue Man Preschool: Bang On A Paint-Covered Drum

blue_man_creativity_ctr.jpgLook, I'm the first, second, and third dad to be stoked to learn that two founders of the Blue Man Group have opened a pre-school. And not just because it's inspired by the play-and-creativity-based Reggio Emilia approach to child development, the same curriculum behind the incredible Play+Soft children's play environments that debuted earlier this year.

Going to Blue Man School could be like the toddler version of living in the Exploratorium. And the founders' perspective on the Ivy/private school insanity is refreshing, too:

The Goldmans and the Winks look like just the kind of downtown couples who would send their children to a pre-school that they have created. (“If your goal is to get your kid into an Ivy League school, this is definitely the wrong place to be,” Goldman said. “But we hope the kids will be so well educated that they get into any place they want.”)
[Though all that could be New Yorker Magazine code for "their kids didn't get into their top choices" and "We've got a massive entertainment franchise printing money for us around the world; who needs to sweat Harvard?"]

While dazzled by the disco ball, the New Yorker piece is remarkably thin on the actual educational approach The Blue School [that's what the URL is, and presumably what the name'll be once the Blue Man Creative Center gets state accreditation] will take. The Blue School's [sic] website, on the other hand, is quite thick:

The Blue Man Creativity Center is dedicated to connecting children with their innate ability to create and to express themselves, and to ensuring that they do not lose this connection as they become "socialized" and "educated"...

...Progressive theorists such as John Dewey, Loris Malaguzzi and Howard Gardner influence our work. Our teachers will also use detailed observation and assessment techniques to determine which projects will be the most engaging and developmentally appropriate for their students, and they will be experienced at finding unique ways of teaching that suit the individual learning styles of each child.

The Blue Man Creativity Center's distinct philosophy in part comes from its founding by artists who believe that all children can benefit from the universal lessons offered by art and creative expression. Therefore, we are committed to celebrating creativity for its own sake, to honoring the process of artful learning rather than just its outcome, to embracing new directions rather than fearing them, and to liberating our children from conventional expectations by encouraging both individual expression and tolerance for multiple points of view...

Creativity & Expression:...We are also excited about incorporating ideas put forth by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his seminal work on creativity, "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience." Specifically, we are interested in creating classroom conditions that are conducive to the mental state of "flow," which Csikszentmihalyi describes as characterized by "energized and focused immersion in tasks that are challenging yet within the reach of a person's skill set"...

Family & Community: ...Our program will be uniquely supportive of families who travel, by looking for creative ways of keeping them connected to our curricula and our community while they are away...

Global & Environmental Exploration: ...Starting with our 2s program, children will be exposed to different languages through songs, stories and conversations. As they move through the elementary program, our students will become proficient in at least one foreign language. We believe that this ability will enrich and extend children's global reach throughout their lives.

Wow, this does sound exactly like a school a group of very wealthy, globetrotting, downtown artist parents would create themselves. And it also sounds as focused on "socialization" and "education" as any other traditional school, with artist residencies in Rome and winter tours in Australia replacing weekends in the Hamptons and Christmas in Aspen/St Bart's. Where do I sign the kid up?

Talk of the Town: Inner Child Dept., Cool for School [newyorker.com]
Blue Man Creativity Center [theblueschool.net]

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