A Maker’s Mindset

Posted September 15, 2016 by Joe Piasecki in Columns

Westside Neighborhood School is launching an experiential preschool in the heart of Silicon Beach

By Menaka Gentle

Exterior and Interior renderings of the coming WNS preschool at Beethoven Street and Coral Tree Place

Exterior and Interior renderings of the coming WNS preschool at Beethoven Street and Coral Tree Place

Anticipating high demand for early childhood education among the young families of Silicon Beach, Westside Neighborhood School will expand its Playa Vista-adjacent campus in order to begin enrolling preschoolers next year.

The prestigious K-8 private school is converting a former industrial warehouse across the street into an indoor-outdoor classroom, and activity space designed to foster experiential learning.

The finished red-brick building will feature artificial-turf flooring, high ceilings with translucent blue skylights and large rollup doors to give the veranda-like setting a bright and airy feel. There will be a woodshop with hammers and power tools, a visual arts studio with potter’s wheels, a large gymnasium for drama, dance and physical activity, and flexible learning spaces for kinesthetic science, engineering and technology projects.

Westside Neighborhood School intends to enroll 68 kids ages 3 to 5 in September 2017. The early application process wraps up on Dec. 1, followed by an open enrollment period for any remaining spaces.

“This community is going to have a really top-tier preschool [option] that doesn’t exist currently,” said WNS Head of School Brad Zacuto.

The program will appeal to “not only families who live in this area but the equally important families who work in this area, as Silicon Beach is growing exponentially,” he said. “To have a preschool in their backyard is going to be a tremendous benefit.”

The preschool’s curriculum pairs a maker’s mindset with a Reggio Emilia-inspired learning style — in other words, putting the child in charge of his or her own education.

“Children come to school already eager to learn, already curious, already scientists,” Zacuto said.

The concept, he added, is about “putting children first and creating exciting provocations for kids that stimulate exploring, questions and inquiry — giving children the chance to be independent, and not giving them the answers to a problem but letting them solve it on their own.”

In addition to the preschool, WNS will use the space for an open-registration parent-toddler program (kids 18 to 36 months) on Saturdays, starting Sept. 10. There will be an emphasis on inquiry and exploration through group experiences that “engage children with language, literacy, music, dramatic play and social-emotional growth,” according to a program description.

The preschool program that opens next year will carry on the Westside Neighborhood School practice of encouraging mindfulness by routinely breaking from activities for moments of silence and reflection.

By combining a child’s innate curiosity with introspection and focus, the preschool program has “the same feeling and culture of WNS,” Director of Admissions Darlene Fountaine said. “It’s an extension of who we are.”

For preschool and parent-toddler program enrollment and pricing information, call (310) 574-8650 or visit wnsk8.com.


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