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