YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood

Shining the Light of Liberty

At around four years old, children’s interests shift from their immediate surroundings to the greater world outside.  They begin to wonder about the things they see in their neighborhood and the greater sights and sounds they encounter within their city.  The children in Ellie and Laura’s UPK class are lucky enough to call the City of New York their home as it has become an inspirational resource for learning this month.  Living in Washington Heights, the students shared information about the proximity of their apartments to the George Washington Bridge which then triggered conversations about other famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Flat Iron Building and the Statue of Liberty.   Building on the children’s curiosity and excitement, the teachers created a unit of learning on New York City. 

After reading the story of the Statue of Liberty and the role it played for immigrants coming to the United States, the students were inspired to talk about the themes they thought the statue represented. “The torch shines a light on the world” said one youngster. “The torch shines a light on freedom.” Each child, then, had an opportunity to create their own crowns and torches to act as Lady Liberty! As a culminating activity, the entire class held a parade, marching around the Y building while exclaiming, “We are the Statue of Liberty, and we have come to shine our light on: love! kindness! freedom! liberty!” Members of the class chose a special attribute that their torch could shine a light on and educated their fellow nursery schoolers on their new found passion.

Concepts such as liberty and freedom may seem abstract to young children.  The role as educator is to introduce these values in a way that is developmentally appropriate and child-centered.  Our nursery school continues to use the arts as the most effective tool for teaching. As children create, their desire to explore is ignited and in turn, values such as these facilitate the growth of our young generation into real contributors to society. 

Written by Susan Herman , Y Nursery School Director and Karen Lee, Y Nursery School Assistant Director

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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