Tango Forever Comes to Waterside!

Hana and Thomas are, respectively, the Founder and Executive Director, and the Director of Programs and Chief Instructor at Tango Forever. They both have a strong background in dance and an equally strong desire to bring the beauty and benefits of Argentine Tango to others.

Hana has organized and hosted Argentine tango events across Manhattan on a weekly and monthly basis with the mission of raising awareness of this art form and reaching a wide range of ages and ethnic groups. She’s also been a design professional for over 20 years. Thomas Reale has been a professional tango dancer and teacher since 1997. He is known for making Tango accessible to his students and has taught at the well-respected Sandra Cameron dance school and performed and given workshops at Carnegie Hall, Essex House, Four Seasons Hotel, and The Palace Hotel.

We interviewed them about the 5-week class they’ll be offering at Waterside, for the next 5 Saturdays, April 29th – May 27th (6pm-7pm), which is open to both Health Club members and non-members.

Hana - of Tango Forever Thomas - of Tango Forever

You had your first class, an introductory class, at Waterside in February – tell me about it.

Hana:                        As it was a first class, most didn’t know what to expect and some were maybe a little bit intimidated by the whole thing. But everybody walked out with a smile. And that says it all. People who have never taken a dance class before walked out hand-in-hand, very happy.

Dancing can be really intimidating. People who don’t know how to can feel that it’s a huge barrier.

So it’s a real endorsement that they left so enthusiastic.

Hana:                        It really was.

When does your class begin?

Hana:                           Saturday, April 29th at 6PM.

How would you describe what they’ll learn?

Thomas:                         People come into Tango with various ideas – that can be wrong. Some people have seen a Broadway show and others have ideas about Tango based on what they’ve been exposed to.

There are different types: One is ballroom tango and another is Argentine tango. And so the first thing we do is explain the difference.

I didn’t realize that there was a difference between Argentine Tango and Ballroom Dancing.

Thomas:                        Many people don’t. If you grew up in America, you usually are exposed to Ballroom Tango, which is completely, completely different: That Valentino idea – and the rose in the mouth.

Whereas Argentine Tango is an over 150-year-old tradition, which came to be through immigrants coming into Argentina, many from Italy. They just started dancing in the streets, and the music and the dance came together interestingly with this instrument called a Bandoneón.

(Photo of Bandoneón – Photo credit: Nico Kaiser via VisualHunt / CC BY)

Hana:                          Also one is developed in the studios and under the spotlights, and the other one is in the streets and much more organically developed.

So they are very distinct.

Yes, and in ballroom tango they use what they call the frame, which is the way that the couple dances, and it’s much more stiff. And, generally speaking, the heads are turned away from each other. Whereas in Argentine tango, it’s not called a frame, it’s called an embrace.

And that tells you everything. It’s a much softer, very active way of relating between two people.

Waterside has residents from all over the world so we are happy to be offering something with an international flavor at the Club.

Hana:                          Yes. And not only Argentine people can dance Argentine Tango.

If you have a heart, you can dance it.

You see in the tango community in New York that there are people from everywhere.  It’s very eclectic. And not only from different ethnic backgrounds – but different age groups. It’s very inclusive of all age groups. Which is rare.

That is rare – very rare.

Is the class for beginners?

Thomas:                      Well, since most of the people will be beginners, it will probably briefly start that way and then develop through intermediate – which is where most people are even when they’re dancing for years.

We start every class with the basics. The basics are the essence of the whole dance. So you always start with the same exercises and move up from there.

Even when you master this dance, you learn the secret was always in the basics. Even the masters come back to the basics.

That makes sense: If you have a really solid base then you can expand upon the dance.

Hana:                          Exactly.  Because it then becomes your own. Rather than teaching people pre-made steps, you teach them the basics and then it becomes their own vocabulary that they can develop and use to express themselves. So that’s our philosophy.

It sounds like an actor learning their lines. Once they learn them, they can speak through them. It gives them a structure that allows them to provide an interpretation.

Hana:                          Right.

I am impressed that this dance is accessible to people of all ages.

It’s dance that you can dance as a young person, sure, but you can really continue dancing well into your eighties and even nineties.

We have somebody who is 98 years old that still goes out at least once a week, dresses up and goes to a social tango. And that keeps him going. And it’s amazing.

And it’s a form of staying in shape that’s gentle enough and you can take it to any level that you are comfortable with. And it actually improves with age. As opposed to say ballet after a certain age you kind of retire from it or other forms of dance, perhaps like salsa, that can be more strenuous. This, you can just keep doing.

Tango classes - Waterside Plaza

Part of your mission with Tango Forever is to improve aging peoples’ health and well-being through the dance of Argentine tango. Why is that important to you?

Hana:                          Yes, this is our organization where we go to senior centers in the various boroughs of the city and we teach them classes at no cost to them.

When I started in Tango, I just started noticing around me that there were so many people well into their eighties that were in such great shape and in good spirits. And I always compare it to people who I know in my own family of that age who were not doing as well.

There is a lot of research –  that correlate this form of movement to health and well-being because it is improv and you’re always in the moment. So this mind-body connection is always cemented and refreshed and it keeps all the nerves and the connections to the brain aligned as opposed to slow degeneration

Also with this dance you are in close contact with others, you feel good – and you are moving.

And so it’s no wonder people keep coming back to it and keep doing it. As opposed to going to the gym, sometimes you have to force yourself to do that.

Here, there is a social connection, there’s a bond, there’s an emotional connection.

You don’t often find all those components in an exercise class: Keep in shape –and have social connections.

Hana:                          Yes. And the music takes you on an incredible journey. The music alone is fantastic.

You mentioned it was like improv, that you have to be in the moment. Why is that essential?

Hana:                          The pace of our lives, especially in New York City, we’re on our phones or on the computer. When you go to Tango, no one is on their phone. It’s a phone-free, unplugged zone. And that is incredibly rare.

Now, you’re in the moment. You’re in the middle of a dance. You’re with somebody. And you change partners all the time, so each time you have to re-calibrate what the lead is asking for, how to follow it, how to respond to this.

It’s a back-and-forth: So you have to present. It’s like a game of chess that’s happening on the spot. You can’t be on the phone.

Is this class offered as a drop in class?

Hana:                          Yes – but we do suggest people come for at least an entire month so you can see a full session of 4 weeks and evaluate. Most people want to continue.

Do they need to wear anything specific?

Hana:                          We ask that women wear leather soled-shoes – doesn’t have to be heels – and men wear leather-soled shoes as well.

What would you say to people who feel trepidation about taking the case because they feel uncoordinated?

Thomas:                      I think when you feel uncoordinated, that feeling may be based on certain experiences you’ve have had.

But it doesn’t apply to everything. And it depends how you learn a thing. We can teach you how to coordinate – that’s what the whole dance is about; it’s about learning to coordinate. My whole philosophy has to do with taking the complex and making it simple.

So it’s not the end of the road if you feel that way. This dance is based on very simple ideas  – like walking. It’s an attitude, it’s an embrace. And it has a very simple base. So everybody can learn.

Tango classes - Tango Forever

Interview with Xia Leder, owner of Xia Spa: The Oasis Within an Oasis

Xia Spa opened at Waterside in October of 2012 and has been a delightful addition to the Plaza since.

Xia Spa, at 25 Waterside Plaza, is a veritable oasis within an oasis.  It’s an ideal space where you can leave it all behind, while you enjoy the exceptional manicures, pedicures, facial treatments, waxing and more. It’s a unique spa where you can enjoy a pleasant view as an expert staff pampers you with personalized treatments.

Over the years of working in some of the leading establishments in the spa industry, Xia Leder has honed her vision of an ideal, personal spa experience.

We spoke to Xia about her new space at Waterside, the spa and what she loves about her work.

I know that the 25 Building at Waterside Plaza is undergoing an exciting renovation process to create a lounge and event space. Part of that included relocating the spa. How are you enjoying the new space?  

The new space is perfect for customers. It’s beautiful. Everything is really nice. My facial room is super nice. The facial room/waxing room is very professional and very comfortable for the customer, and the lights are brighter than before.

We’re moving the nail dryer, so when customer dries their nails, they face outside. They can see the view and watch their children play.

Especially as the weather gets nicer. It’ll be so relaxing to see the beauty outside while getting a beautiful manicure.

Gel manicures are fantastic: They last quite awhile without chipping. Is it a popular thing at the salon?

Yes, but even with our regular color, we do our best to make it last. Some places when you have regular polish, they charge $1.00 to put on the fast-dry top coat. We don’t charge.

Manicure at Xia Spa at Waterside Plaza

For the gel color, we use  a great brand, that is very popular, called Bio Nails. They have beautiful colors, very shiny, and many other benefits.

Also, we have Memory Gel Wear from Korea. They have far brighter colors than other brands and they have a thin layer, but they stay longer than others.

And, we have perfect match – so if you have a gel manicure and you want to match it with your regular pedicure, we have the perfect color match: Same color for your gel and the regular.

That is unique. What else does Xia Spa offer that’s uncommon?

My waxing and facial is different than anywhere else. My waxing uses cream: A brand, called Satin Smooth. The cream waxing is not hot, doesn’t damage your skin, and has the least pain.

I’ve never even heard of a cream wax! Sounds magical. Especially the less pain part.

It’s so much better.

For April, your special is your signature facial.

Yeah, for April, I am offering 40 percent off, because my facial room is so different than before.

Also, I just want people coming in to enjoy their facials. Sometimes people don’t want to  spend that kind of money, and I want to give them the opportunity to try it anyway. The facial is so relaxing. Your skin feels so good afterwards.

You have really great reviews on Yelp. A number say things like: “The ladies at Xia Spa always do an amazing job with my manicures, pedicures, waxing, and massages.”

So you obviously are excellent.  And you have very good team.

Oh, yes.

Why do you think that you get such glowing reviews?

First of all, we’re super clean.

Secondly, we have really relaxing music. The music is so soothing.

And the third is we are using only products that are top of the line. So, for example, people have a manicure from us, it lasts.  Sometimes a manicure, at another place, maybe by the second day, it peels.

Oh, yeah, that’s definitely happened to me.

But here, the quality of the product is great, and our team does quality work.

And if the customer does have problem, they just come in and we fix it for them for free.

I listen to feedback: Anybody can tell me about anything: Good or not good. It helps us improve. I always tell people to tell me what they liked or what they didn’t. I like hearing it.

Another thing we do to make the experience best is that everything is disposable. For example, the nail files, everything only for you, and then we throw out.

Very hygienic.

Yes.

I hear you also have tea at the spa.

Yes, we have tea, hot tea, because we are Chinese. We like tea, and right now, people like green tea, drink it for their health. So in winter, we have hot tea. And in the summer, we have cold lemon water, with fresh lemons. So people come here, and it’s just like going to their sister’s house. They feel welcome, comfortable, relaxed.

That’s another thing that was mentioned in the reviews: “The customer service is unbeatable, with Xia always offering tea in the cold months, water in the warm months… it’s the little extra things that really elevate your mood while you’re at this salon.”

Can people drop in – or should they make appointments?

Most people make appointments. That way they don’t have to wait.

That makes perfect sense.

Were you always involved in this business?

I have a college education in China. I was working in newspaper office. This is so much different. When I come to the States, because my language and my age, I went to beauty school to learn about the facials, aesthetic. I feel if I do this, maybe with my learning this new language, I won’t have to talk too much.

One problem: People love to have conversations in salons!

Well now, I like to talk to people. And I love my job.

So, I have a cosmetology license. Also, I have aesthetic certificate. After I learned cosmetology, I went to Tribeca and SoHo work, and I have manager experience.

Now, the way I do my facial, the signature facial, the one on special this month: I am Chinese and I also learn American facial, so I do American and Chinese combination.

Oh, even better! This is probably why Yelp also has so many people raving about the signature facial.

I incorporate the Chinese part, like acupressure. So when doing my facial, I give a massage, for the head, whole face, neck, cheeks, and arm, hand. The combination for the customers, makes them relaxed.

My customers call my hands like a feather.

You are completely selling me on this facial!

Are your clients mostly from Waterside?

Yes, 99 percent are Waterside residents.

What do you like about being at Waterside? 

I feel I am in the family, because the majority who come here are return customers.

I see my customers when we go to the coffee shop, when we get groceries, when we’re on the plaza. We see each other often.

Even when residents aren’t having a treatment, they’ll come in and say hi to me.  It’s like a big family.

Interview with George at Waterside Cafe: Good Food for Good People

If you attended our Christmas party, you’ll have tasted Waterside Cafe delicious creations!

Waterside Cafe did the catering for that– and for a number of our events – including our grand July 4th fireworks party.

You might also have had a meal at this charming restaurant, since it’s located just downstairs (at 25 Waterside Plaza).

We spoke with George Gaspar, Waterside Cafe’s owner, about new developments at the Cafe.

“Iron Chef” George

You did the food for the Waterside Christmas party, which everyone was thrilled about.

Thank you. Thank you.

Give me the inside scoop on Waterside Cafe! What’s new and exciting?

Pizza being made at Waterside Cafe
Pizza being made at Waterside Cafe

We’re changing the menu around a little bit. And we’ve added pizza.

Oh! Pizza! What kind?

We’re doing a New York-style cheese – with whatever toppings you like. Pepperoni, mushrooms, tomatoes – anything you’d like to put on top.

That sounds great. So that’s in both a personal size and a large option?

Yes, right now, we’re doing the seven-inch, personal-size and the large, 18-inch.

When is the pizza being rolled out? Literally.

It started a few weeks ago. The pizza is already up and running.

What else are you rolling out? Figuratively.

We’re going to start doing dinner specials. Like right now, Friday nights, we have a $15.95 prime rib special. It’s prime rib with a potato and a vegetable. Every night will have its own dinner special. We plan to have a night a week with mussels in a red sauce. The rotating dinner specials will happen by the end of January, beginning of February.

Lots of dinner developments! What about for other meals?

We also now have a 2-for-1 Happy Hour special every day.  And that special changes daily. That could be a 2-for-1 on appetizers, a 2-for-1 on sandwiches, 2-for-1 on beer or wine.

We’re also putting together a much nicer brunch menu. For instance, we just added French Toast.

Yum! Maybe I’m a little too excited. But I love brunch!

And hopefully on Sundays, we’re have a Sunday brunch with mimosas. We have a beer and wine license – so we can do that.

Do you do delivery? Not for the mimosas, maybe – but in general?

We do. We deliver to the property only: Only to Waterside tenants.

Exclusive.

How can people order food for delivery?

They can call us. The phone number is 212-685-2233.

I heard you’re offering Halal foods as a new feature? 

Yes, we have three items that Halal-certified. We serve Halal-certified chicken patties, chicken tenders, and a hamburger that’s Halal-certified.

We’re all big fans of the fries. They’re so good. They’re terribly addictive, though. Can you stop that? Can you make them less addictive?

No, that’s what they are. That’s the best part of them.

Sigh. Okay. I guess we’ll just have to exercise willpower.

Do you also offer catering for tenants?

Definitely! We do catering for any type of event. For one tenant, we delivered four dozen hors d’oeuvres. She was having a party at their home, and she decided she didn’t want to do the hors d’oeuvres part of the dinner, so we delivered hors d’oeuvres for her.

She cooked the rest of the dinner, and we did the hors d’oeuvres.

We can do anything – from a small cocktail party for five, to 10, to 15 people, and all the way up to – you know, we’ve done the 4th of July here for Waterside, which is 6,000 guests.

That was a huge party!

We have a full catering staff, chefs – and we have wait staff if needed.

What a great solution – because that’s the worst part of the party, as far as I’m concerned —

The setup and the cleanup.

Exactly! Seeing people is wonderful. It’s just all the hassle – and clean-up. It can be too draining.

Do you have a specific catering menu?

We customize all the menus. We have a standard list of appetizers or hors d’oeuvres, and entrees, but it ends up being all personalized.

Does Waterside Cafe have a rewards card?

We do. If you give us your e-mail or your mobile number, it automatically signs you up, or you can link it to your credit card. And every time you come in, after five purchases, you receive a 10% discount.

Perfect.

And we have a great clientele here. We’re very lucky.

That’s lovely to hear!

It feels like everybody wishes us the best. And we hope they understand that we are trying every day to make it a good experience, at a fair price.

What need have you filled at Waterside?  

We provide a service for the person in the morning who needs a cup of coffee, or an egg sandwich, or a quick breakfast on their way to the bus. And during the day, most of the employees of Waterside stop by and have lunch with us. And then as the evening comes, some people come back for dinner. They know that we have beer and wine, and they can stop in for a drink, and to mingle with the tenants.

That’s especially comforting. Sometimes, at the end of the day, all you want to do is have dinner somewhere close to home where you know the food will be good, so you can just go home easily right after.

What we want to do is be part of the community. We want to be part of Waterside. And that’s what we are. It’s someplace where people know the name of the cook, and the cashier, and the barista. They’ll know their order. You know, we recognize faces and names, and we’re part of the community.

And we have some really good, good people working for us, and we try to keep them.

That’s something I was going to mention! Everybody loves your team. They’re engaging, they seem to care. Obviously you make an effort to hire good  people.

We try to take care of our employees, and I think we have a great crew.

Waterside Cafe Staff
George and his Waterside Cafe crew

What appeals to you about the restaurant business? You’ve been in the industry for over 30 years. 

I like to see things work. I like to see things happen. I have manager Alfred that works for me. He was a driver for me seven years ago. And we made him a dishwasher. He moved to a porter. We taught him how to cook, and he got it, and he wanted to learn. And we put him into the Cafe, and he learned how to make pizza. And then he learned how to manage the Cafe, and now he’s my manager.

Oh, that’s so great.

He’s my number two guy.

You have items people can grab on the go on their way to work – in a display case at the Cafe.

Yes, we have a grab and go. We have a full-time pastry chef, a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate. Her name is Jasmine Myers. She does all our pastries and all baking.

Oh, it’s all made in house!

Yes. We make chocolate chip cookies. We make oatmeal raisin. We do fresh muffins every day. Of course, the bread pudding. Almost everything in our showcase is scratch-baked.

What’s your favorite?

My treat, which I’m not supposed to eat anymore, is an oatmeal raisin cookie. I love sneaking an oatmeal raisin cookie. Oh, and the doughnuts, which we don’t make – but they’re delicious. The glazed doughnut is unbelievable, but I don’t eat those. I’m not allowed.

You’re not allowed. Like everyone with the fries.

And, finally, an important piece of information, what are your hours?

We’re open seven days. Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Saturday, we open at 8:00 a.m., and we close at 9:00 p.m., and Sunday, we open at 9:00 a.m., and close at 9:00 p.m.

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 bsns10@aol.com 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

Wow!

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.

Oh!

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?

Sure.

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: bsns10@aol.com.

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