New ELC Space

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Early Learning Center

Beginning in fall 2017, Avenues New York’s Early Learning Center will be housed in a brand new, purpose-built facility located at 536 West 26th Street—just down the block from the main campus. Designed by Eleven of Eleven Architecture, this new facility will provide three floors of self-contained space for our nursery, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.

For Avenues, the design process itself presented an opportunity for innovation. Taking the same interdisciplinary, collaborative approach that we encourage in our students, the design team engaged our ELC faculty—the project’s most important members—throughout the process, soliciting their views and incorporating their feedback. At multiple workshops, educators and architects worked together to identify ways in which a new facility could better serve our program. Their discussions were informed by field trips to peer institutions, researching innovative workspaces and attending a Harvard educational design conference. This process of inquiry and discovery culminated with the construction of a full-scale prototype ELC classroom, which was tested with groups of our students in order to identify areas for improvement.

For our faculty and leadership, this was an exciting chance to create a space that would not only meet the needs of young children, but also fulfill the requirements of Avenues’ unique curriculum, which emphasizes collaboration, interdisciplinary study and learning through play. The result is a best-in-class early childhood facility where our faculty can thrive in their mission to nurture and inspire our youngest learners.

For our designers, the selection of each material was a chance to further optimize the environment for early childhood education. Fixtures and furniture—from classroom sinks to cubbies—were selected with the specific ergonomics of three- to six-year-olds in mind. Ceiling tiles and wall panels offer improved classroom acoustics and minimized noise pollution, while natural carpets from renewable sources perform as air filters, reducing airborne dust and allergens. Honoring our mission statement pledge of awareness that our behavior “makes a difference in our ecosystem,” all materials were sourced from producers who prioritize sustainability and environmental accountability.

Spread across three floors—nursery on the second, pre-k on the third and kindergarten on the fourth—the new ELC features a range of spaces to accommodate various learning styles and lesson formats. A fully equipped teaching kitchen and a patio for growing plants will provide ample opportunities for experiential learning, while a cozy library in the quiet section of the building will be a haven for young readers. The classrooms in which students spend most of their time are paired and connected in order to support the immersion program, in which students move between English- and Chinese- or Spanish-speaking classrooms on alternating days.

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Recent Articles from OPEN, our news and discussion blog

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