Part 2: Interview with Estelle at Bellevue South Nursery School: Creativity and Connection – at Waterside Plaza

Last time, we spoke to Estelle about the creative part of the Nursery.

We also learned about Monster Toast!

Kids enjoying their Monster Toast - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Kids enjoying their Monster Toast – at Bellevue South Nursery School

This time, we talk about Bellevue South’s environmental focus, class size and individual attention.

You have a great picture of your students doing a project after learning about leaves and trees.

Project after learning about leaves and trees) - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Dyed pumpkin seeds- (project after learning about leaves and trees) – at Bellevue South Nursery School

Yes, one of my prime teachers is really into ecology, recycling, the environment. She does incredible things with nature – and a wonderful unit on the rainforest and animals and so she is our go-to person with recycling and the environment and making the world a better place and taking care of our world. That’s a big focus for us.

Examining fall nature with magnifying glass - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Examining fall nature with magnifying glass – at Bellevue South Nursery School

That’s lovely. A great thing to teach children early on.

What is the class size like, in relation to the teachers? Do they get individual attention?

The children get a tremendous amount, a tremendous amount, of individual attention, because we have small groups.

Free play on the rug! - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Free play on the rug! – at Bellevue South Nursery School

You have to have wonderful staff, which we do, because that makes the school. And if you have a low teacher-student ratio, that means that each child gets that special attention because at this age, each one is unique and each one is developing a little bit differently.

So one child will be very, very precocious when it comes to small motor-skills and writing, another will have tremendous difficulty holding a pencil or cutting with scissors. But that child may be wonderful with speech, and the other child, who’s great at small motor-skills, may have trouble with pronunciation, articulation, vocabulary.

So every single child is unique, and what we try to do is we isolate the problems and work with them. We consider ourselves very developmentally attuned to each child, because every child develops differently. Some children need a little bit more work on certain areas of development. But we make sure that eventually everybody comes out even.

It’s wonderful the effort you make to take into account all the different levels of learning.

And with all our combined experience, we can help children as well, in other ways. Like dealing with separation. That happened recently, a child was perfect first month of school, came in happy, everything was great. Then we had four days off of school, the two holidays for Rosh Hashanah and the weekend. Bam, child absolutely went through tremendous separation.

But we have a plan; we know what to do. So in this case, the child was crying, having hard time, and mother was upset. And we got her daughter to calm down and enjoy herself.

Today, of course, the mother was anxious coming in. “Will she adjust?” And it was so beautiful to watch. I told the mother what to do, just reassure her that she would stay. And I said, “Don’t worry, the activities and the materials will lure her.” And we got her very connected to one teacher, in particular, and in about five minutes she left the mother, went to play with one of my teachers – building with blocks – and as happy as can be.

And the mother’s looking and said to one of the teachers, “You know, I have an appointment…”

And we said, “You really should stay.” And then the child just spontaneously said, “Oh, Mom, you can go, bye-bye.”

That’s pretty sweet.

How can parents apply to Bellevue South Nursery School?

The application is on our website. They just fill it out and send it in. Then we set up a play visit, which is very non-threatening, five little kids. They just have fun for one hour. We talk with the parents. The teachers, my director, my co-director, Caroline, and myself – we speak with the parents, and the teachers play with the kids. Then they have snack, we have a little music, and that’s the interview process. It’s not really an interview, it’s just a play visit. Just so the parents see the school in action.

Is there a deadline?

We don’t really have a deadline. We have people coming from all over, so we have a rolling admission if we have the spaces. We have people coming from the UN, just getting to New York. Somebody’s coming, I think next week, from Japan.

And you’re having an Open House soon?

Yes: The Open House is on Tuesday, November 8th, from 4pm to 6pm. It’s an Open House for parents, not the children. This way the parents can see the space, and understand what we have available for their child.

And we give a little talk, so they get insight. Like what I’m doing now, that is what we would do at the Open House.

Contact Bellevue South Nursery school at for more information.


Kids making a friendship spider web (after a lesson on spiders) - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Kids making a friendship spider web (after a lesson on spiders) – at Bellevue South Nursery School


Interview with Estelle at Bellevue South Nursery School: Part 1 – Creativity and Connection – at Waterside Plaza

Bellevue South Nursery School is located at 10 Waterside Plaza. It serves children ages 3-5.

The school year runs from Sept – June and they presently have a few openings available.

We spoke to Estelle Hofstetter, the school’s Co-Director (along with Caroline Mechanick) and Music Specialist.

Estelle has been at the school for 31 Years. She has an MS from Bank Street in Infant/Child Development and a BA from Queens College, Early Childhood Education

Can you tell us about your programs?

Right now we have two classes. We have the morning one, for 3-year-olds, from 8:45am to 11:45pm. And in the afternoon we have a Pre-K program from 12:45pm to 3:45pm.

Next year, we’ll offer the parents full days – it’s what a lot of people want. We’ll have mixed ages, three and fours, for the full day, next year.

That’s really helpful for a lot of parents, given their work schedules.

I hear you were just teaching music – can you tell me more about your music programs?

Our curriculum is very, very rich. And what makes it so special at Bellevue South is that we don’t have to import special teachers. My forte is music and I love playing the piano and singing with the children using instruments and movement. And the days I’m not here, another teacher also plays the piano and takes my lead on what things we’ve taught the children.

Singing with their spider hats on! - At Bellevue South Nursery School
Singing with their spider hats on! – At Bellevue South Nursery School

What kind of music do you play and sing with them?

There are hundreds. “If You’re Happy and You Know It” – that’s using motions and singing. We do a lot of Halloween songs, getting ready for the holiday, so we can perform for the parents. We do a lot of songs that have their names in it, so the three-year-olds can  get to know each other. You know, “Here We Are Together”, and they say their name. We do a lot of songs about animals, “Kookaburra”, “Joshie Otter”. We do songs relating to the time/season, like this month we have spider songs and pumpkin songs.

Most of the songs have motions, and that’s what keeps children interested, is when songs have motions, as well as words and melody.

Do you have mostly Waterside Plaza children?

Actually, we have the whole gambit. We go from 14th Street up to 40th Street. From 1st Avenue to Park Avenue. Of course we love our Waterside community. And we do prioritize them. It’s wonderful for the Waterside community to have a nursery school right here. The children feel so connected, especially since one of my teachers also lives at Waterside. So the kids get real a kick out of that. They think she sleeps in school.

That’s hilarious. She seems even more devoted that way.

Tell me more about your staff. From reading about them on the website, I get the impression that they’re an exceptional group.

All my staff is very local, which is very nice. And it is a very unique staff. They’ve been with me for many, many years.

It also sounds like they are all highly creative.

One of my staff, and not only is she trained in early childhood education, but she’s also an artist, so she brings that to the table. She’s incredible at getting the children engaged. We do a lot of author studies in the Pre-K, and artist studies, so she has them doing, for example, Leo Lionni or Eric Carle. So they do projects, a la Eric Carle or Leo Lionni! And we’ve done wonderful artist studies, so you’ll see something that looks like a Calder mobile. The kids really enjoy learning about the artist and then doing something very similar.

You must have a bunch of budding artists

We are a process-orientated school, meaning that we believe in the creativity and the process of a project, not so much the end result.

Apple Printing - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Apple Printing – at Bellevue South Nursery School

And so they look at the child as a whole and what they’re accomplishing when they are doing a project. Not so much if it came out exactly the way they wanted it. We do a lot of open-ended – finger painting, clay, printing – anything to do with paints. And nice messy stuff. And we tell the parents: “Let them do the messy stuff here. You don’t have to do it at home.”

String Painting - at Bellevue South Nursery School
String Painting – at Bellevue South Nursery School

That’s the way to do it!

Art is very important here. Our students get music, every day, as we discussed. And also movement – every single day.

Sounds ideal.

Physical exercise is one of our priorities. And one of my teachers, she has her Master’s in library science and early childhood, and she’s also a certified yoga instructor, so we have yoga twice a week for the three-year-olds and for the four-year-olds.

We have yoga mats here, so parents don’t have to worry about bringing that. Yoga is really wonderful for mindfulness and for flexibility. And especially when it’s really cold out, it’s really useful. They have their movement, they have their yoga, every single day.

This is unique.

There are a number of  things that make our school so unique – another one is that we have cooking every single week. We cook with the children. We make sure that kids really get involved, because it’s been studied that children who participate in the making of the food and the cooking will try more things.

And of course what we cook is always nutritious, we don’t have any sugary stuff. So everything is fun, delicious – and nutritious.

Can you give me any examples of dishes you cook?

Let’s see, this week they’re making hummus. They made applesauce last week. They read “The Three Bears” and so they made their own porridge. We have a juicer in school, so they tasted real apple juice. We’re going to be having at least one juice every month, a different juice, they’ll see how it’s made.

I didn’t know kids that young could do that! So, you’re talking about three to five year olds, that they’re able to cook?

Oh, absolutely. They love to mix, adding the flour They’ve made spaghetti with tomato sauce, they’ve cut the tomatoes. They’ve made quiche. Very healthy muffins, like carrot ones. They’ve done pita chips, where they cut the pita. They’ve made dips. It’s cooking every week, fun stuff.

Slicing Apples - at Bellevue South Nursery School
Slicing Apples – at Bellevue South Nursery School


For Halloween, they do something really interesting! We use white bread and food coloring with milk. And they paint a face on the piece of bread. And when it’s toasted, the color comes out and it looks like a monster face.


We call it “Monster Toast.” When you toast it, the Monster toast the colors come out, and then they eat it with a little butter on top, and they love it.

I love this.

It’s really fun, they love it too!

Can you send us a Monster Toast picture?


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview – where we learn more about the special attention Bellevue South gives to its students, its focus on environmental studies, and what happens at the Open House (November 8th, 4pm – 6pm)

To contact Bellevue South Nursery school email:

The kids with their spider hats on! - At Bellevue South Nursery School
The kids with their spider hats on! – At Bellevue South Nursery School