Earlier this week the entire IPS communities came together to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Along with UN Day, it is one of IPS’s biggest celebrations and it reinforces for me what makes IPS a unique place in New York City. It’s the “I” in IPS.
Nestled on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, The International Preschools (IPS for short) provides high-quality early childhood education, while emphasizing the “international” in our name. So what makes The International Preschools international? To answer this question, let’s begin with a brief history of the school.
A Rich History of International Diversity
From Day One in 1963 we set about to create a place for families from distant lands who often struggled to find a place of support and belonging. Before long, our community, including teachers and staff, drew from a much wider population than consular families, including professional expatriates and American families both with and without recent immigration stories. This is New York City, after all.
Celebrating Diversity at The International Preschools
Families looking for a school that reflects the city they live in need not look any further. At IPS we have cultural, racial, and socio-economic diversity. This has been a key component of the school since our inception, and we use this diversity to teach children that we are all different and we are all the same.
Following the mission of The International Preschools, a key component of our play-based curriculum is celebrating what is shared and what is different among individuals and cultures. These include our physical attributes, languages spoken, and family makeup.
Making self-portraits and family portraits are signature projects at IPS. The children learn how people are all unique yet alike in many ways. They refine their fine motor skills and identify different colors and shapes. They become comfortable sharing facts about themselves and their families. This information is used to create graphs and charts, increasing the children’s math skills and understanding.
We use national flags as a developmentally appropriate representation of each child’s and each teacher’s cultural heritage. We ask parents to share their family’s country(ies) of origin and where they have lived. Some children represent multiple countries, while others represent just one. All children are represented by the American flag because we are all living in the United States. Flags are omnipresent throughout the school and classrooms, both as physical flags and in the children’s artwork of flags on display. The teachers encourage the children to note similarities and differences among flags. How many of these flags have stars? Which direction do the stripes go?
As important members of the community, IPS teachers also represent diverse cultural backgrounds. At least one teacher in each classroom was born and raised outside of the United States. They bring their unique experiences into the classroom to share, just like the children and families.
At IPS we believe that children should see themselves in the books they read and the toys they play with. Classroom bookshelves are filled with books showing diverse characters. Baby dolls and toys people also represent different races, genders, countries of origin, ages, and abilities.
We Recognize and Celebrate Many Holidays and Cultures
Whole school gatherings revolve around celebrations of different cultures and countries. Families are invited to join us in late October for UN Day, a celebration of the birth of the United Nations. For UN Day, we celebrate with an international sing-along and multicultural potluck snack. We encourage families to wear traditional clothing from their cultures. In mid-December, we come together as a community to celebrate the winter solstice with a sing-along that includes songs in different languages about light and festivals of light. We have a variety of additional cultural celebrations throughout the year that we celebrate as a school, including Diwali and the Lunar New Year.
An International Parent Community
During the early childhood years, the home-school connection is critical to a child’s social-emotional development. Culture Shares are a special IPS tradition and a good way for parents to be involved in their child’s school life. All families participate throughout the year by coming into the classroom to share about a celebration or tradition from their culture or something from their own family culture. This can be anything from how a family celebrates the Indian holiday of Diwali, to Greek name-day celebrations, to talking about a family’s country of origin or tradition of making pancakes every Sunday morning.
For many parents, preschool is their first school experience in New York City. The parent community at IPS is welcoming and helps create a school family on the Upper East Side. The IPS Parents Association has events and gatherings for families throughout the year, giving opportunities for parents to meet each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
NYC is an International City
Many people refer to New York City as a “melting pot” because it is home to so many diverse cultures. For many young professionals and young parents, this is the exact reason they choose to call NYC their home. Walking on East 86th Street, you can hear people speaking many languages, smell food from many countries, and meet people from all around the world and the Upper East Side. The same can be said about walking through the classrooms at IPS.
The International Preschools Welcomes Everyone
The burning question for many families might be: does my family belong at IPS if we aren’t international? The simplest answer is YES! Whether your family is new to the United States, has strong roots to your familial countries of origin, or you would consider yourself simply American, everyone belongs at IPS.
Join Our Inclusive Community at IPS
The International Preschools (IPS) epitomizes the fusion of education, diversity, and community. For over six decades, we’ve championed a place where families from diverse backgrounds find support and belonging in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Our strength lies in our diversity. IPS proudly mirrors the mosaic of New York City, embracing cultural, racial, and socio-economic diversity as the cornerstone of our identity. From flags and multicultural celebrations to events like UN Day and the Winter Solstice, we instill in our children the beauty of differences and the unity of humanity.
IPS is international, not just in heritage but in spirit. Everyone, regardless of their origins, belongs at IPS. Whether newcomers to the United States, deeply rooted in their ancestral countries, or simply American, all find a home here. Join our inclusive community, where your child will flourish in a nurturing environment that celebrates diversity, fostering global citizens. Explore IPS, witness our ethos firsthand, and discover the world within our walls. Choose IPS, where education transcends borders and embraces the world. We eagerly anticipate welcoming your child into our vibrant community.