Dillon Child Study Center is a long standing (75 years), child centered preschool program in Ft. Greene Brooklyn. This school has large and sunny classrooms and a well equipped outdoor play space where kids can ride bikes and scooters. Their age cutoff is Dec. 31 like NYC public schools.
One thing that sets Dillon apart from other fine preschool programs is their association with St. Joseph's College. They are a "laboratory preschool" with the full complement of long time, full time, paid teachers and a multitude of college students getting their field work experience in the classroom. The college students are not counted in the official student:teacher ratio, which averages to about 6:1 (those numbers are dependent on age). They are required to do 5 hours a week. When they graduate from this 4 year program, they will have both Special Ed and General Ed certification for Birth through 6th grade. The kids often call them "my college student".
Dillon has a 5 day a week schedule but depending on the age of the preschool students it may be a part time or full time schedule offered. The Director, Susan Straut-Collard, said that they believe that the consistency of a daily schedule is important for the children's development. A Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule may look like it makes sense to you as a parent, but to a child who doesn't know the days of the week, it just may appear to be random.
I asked her, "how would you describe 'child centered'?" And she told me a story about a child who was interested in Jackson Pollack. The other kids in the class didn't know who that was, so the teacher showed them examples of his paintings. The kids thought that the paintings looked pretty easy to do, so when they came in the next day, the floor was covered with paper and the kids were immediately put into smocks to try it for themselves. They wanted to see what a real Jackson Pollack looked like so they went on a trip to visit one in person. From this little seed, grew 8 months of "inquiry", many trips to museums and the study of lots of other painters. Child centered means following the interests of the class to enrich the embedded learning. Dillon is not an academic program in the preschool years and current progressive studies have shown that enriched play is extremely important for children's academic development. Another thing that is a little unusual about Dillon is that they have a kindergarten class, which is the first academic year and prepares students for both public and private first grade placements.
Their last tour this year is Wed. March 2, but if you have missed that you should contact Susan Straut-Collard, email@example.com 718.940.5689.
If you have arrived late on the scene and missed the regular admissions season, all the Preschool Directors recommend contacting them and staying in touch through the spring and summer and you may very well be lucky if there is last minute attrition, which happens more often than you think.