Blue Man Creativity Center, Reggio Emilia and Preschool Parenting Talk

10/29/07 - By Anna Fader
You know the main thing I worry my kids are missing out on in their education in New York? It's not so much math, social studies or reading. It's Creativity. I don't mean art. I mean just random, wacky NYC Creativity. This post is about a really cool new preschool, a hot educational philosophy, and a preschool parenting talk that are all aimed at putting more of that big C type of creativity back into childhood.


When I was in first grade, I took a drama class that my mom set up for me and a couple of other kids. The teacher was just a struggling actress my mom knew from somewhere. What I remember from that class is that she taught us to massage our tongues and said if you have a crease down the middle of your tongue it means you're stressed out. I have no idea if that's true or not. It doesn't really matter. What was cool about that experience and many other experiences I had as a child growing up in the West Village in the 70s was just the raw exposure to cool, creative people who blasted my world open from the conventional. I wonder if my children are getting that or if everything just seems so much more focused on academic achievement and standardization today. I first heard about the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy a couple of weeks ago in a NY Times article about how Reggio Emilia is the hot trend for NYC preschools. At the time I kind of blew it off because I am naturally adverse to anything labeled a hot trend and the whole thing sounded like a lot of hype. I mean, the description of Reggio Emilia education as child-led art centered education didn't seem new to me at all. It sounded a lot like what my preschool education at West Village Nursery School was like. Oh yeah, my amazing preschool that I think of as the most formative experience of my early life and that I haven't been able to replicate for my kids. Doh. So maybe there is something to this Reggio craze. But, case in point, if you heard that the Blue Man Group had started a preschool, you wouldn't need to know that they were following the Reggio Emilia philosophy to know that this was going to be a cool school. Certainly the Blue Man Creativity Center, founded by the wacky, creative minds behind the Blue Man Group could only create a school high on creativity and eccentricity. According to the description of the Blue Man Creativity Center in The New Yorker the school seems to be more than living up to expectations:
Every day at the center will end with a ritual called Glow Time, during which the shades are lowered, the regular lights are turned off, and black lights are turned on, illuminating the parts of the room (including work created by the students) that have been painted with special UV paint. The collection of Blue Man-inspired educational gewgaws on hand is a far cry from flash cards and Play-Doh. There’s a hypnotic Bubble Machine, with kid-controlled colored lights; a futuristic Water Machine, with a mini-whirlpool; and a trippy installation, left over from the B.M.G.’s 2003 tour, of giant computer-animated dragonflies that can be made to light up, flap their wings, and fly. The Tree House, whose slide deposits kids in the Texture Pit, looks like fun. So does the OMi-Beam machine, a computerized rig made up of eight ceiling-mounted halogen lamps, loudspeakers, and a video monitor (there is only one other OMi-Beam machine in the country, at Madame Tussaud’s). Colored beams create pools of light on the floor, and by waving a reflective wand through the beams kids can produce any number of sounds, from musical instruments to the calls of barnyard animals and samples of pop hits from the nineteen-eighties (one is Fatboy Slim’s “Rockafeller Skank�).
The school's co-founder Chris Wink says his mission is to create "a school that people wouldn't have to recover from." I don't know if he means like how a lot of people I know are recovering from Catholic school education or if he simply means recovering their creativity after having it standardized out of them. Either way, there will be plenty of naysayers who will worry that a school like this won't prepare children for life and/or school admissions later. And that will all depend on how good a job they can do both at educating the children and at promoting the school (as Stanley Bosworth from St. Ann's was famously good at). But in the end we all have to ask ourselves what are the most important things for our children to learn? Is it worth the risk that you trade a little bit of academic prowess for teaching children to think and behave in a truly creative way? If you are interested in learning more about Reggio Emilia and possibly answering that question for yourself, Buckle My Shoe Preschool is hosting a talk called Playing Your Way to Harvard in which Dr. George Forman, a renown child development specialist and proponent of Reggio Emilia, will be teaching parents to engage as learning partners with their children through play. The event is free and takes place on November 14th at 6:30 at PS 234 in Tribeca (292 Greenwich). Space is limited. To reserve a spot email: