Merchant of the Week:  Oak Lane Child Care Center

oak lane
February 8, 2013
by Rob Greenstein

I paid a visit to Oak Lane Child Care Center to see how great little kids have it these days!

Ronnie Weinberger

Oak Lane Child Care Center
49 Memorial Drive
Chappaqua, NY 10514
Phone: 914-238-3756
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To learn about our Gala on March 10 at the Kittle House by clicking HERE.

When was Oak Lane founded, and how long in your current home?

Oak Lane was founded in 1972 by a group of working parents from the Pleasantville Cottage School. We began as a community of families and staff working together to create the best environment for the children. In 1982, Oak Lane was able to purchase our current home in Chappaqua. The security of owning our home along with our philosophy of providing an enriching environment for the children make Oak Lane an ideal early childhood education center.

Tell me about your house.

One of the nicest things about Oak Lane is its location at the end of a quiet street surrounded by tall trees, grass and flowers. The physical surroundings naturally increase the sense of comfort and security the children and parents enjoy.  The children plant vegetable and flower gardens. The cozy house gives the feeling of home and the relationships between the children, the parents and the staff are just as warm and open.  On any given morning, you are likely to smell fresh muffins baking in the kitchen and see the children happily greeting their teachers and friends. The children feel that Oak Lane is their home away from home.

Tell me about your licensing and any special accreditation.

We are licensed by New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services.  We are also accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  NAEYC is a highly regarded organization which accredits centers based on a stringent set of criteria that focuses on an educated staff, higher adult:child ratios than are required by the State, and a philosophy of providing the safest environment possible combined with the strongest possible educational opportunities for young children.  Oak Lane was one of only 17 centers in the nation to receive reaccreditation under NAEYC’s new standards in 2012.

What age groups do your care for, and do you have openings?

Oak Lane serves children from 18-months to 5-years old.  We have four classes:  Toddlers (18 months to 3 years), a young-three’s class, an older-three’s class, and a four-to-five year old class.  We currently have no available openings, but we have a rolling admission policy that allows us to enroll new children as spaces open up in our classrooms.

What are you goals for those under your care?

Since the New York State Department of Education has developed a set of Core Standards for preschool years, we have dedicated our educational philosophy to incorporating these standards into the curriculum that we developed for the children.  We recognize that children learn through first-hand interactive experiences with their environment and the people and things within it. Our goal at Oak Lane is to provide an outstanding educational childcare experience within a setting of early emotional nurturing so that children:

•  learn self-help skills: toileting, eating, dressing, choosing an activity.
•  learn the order of the educational environment.
•  are introduced to the tools of learning.
•  develop habits of observation, questioning and listening.
•  learn to use the equipment appropriately.
•  are provided with activities which encourage increased language development.
•  use language as a tool in social situations and feel comfortable speaking within a group.
•  work with others to accomplish a goal.
•  learn from mistakes and be risk takers.

We help children:

•    become comfortable in their setting and develop the ability to separate from parents.
•    develop positive self-concept and a sense of belonging.
•    develop trusting relationships with adults and peers. Learn to negotiate and apply rules of the community and/or group.
•    understand and respect cultural and social diversity.
•    represent ideas, thoughts, and feelings through pretend play, drama, music, dance, art and construction.
•    think critically, reason and problem solve.
•    develop understanding of physical world, learn cause and effect.
•    become competent in management of their bodies and acquire basic gross and fine motor skills.

As a not-for-profit childcare center, how are you different than a for-profit enterprise?

As a not-for-profit center, we rely on family involvement to keep our house running smoothly. As homeowners, we are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the building. Each Oak Lane family is required to help in some way. Aside from providing a much-needed service, and saving the Center money, these joint efforts help foster a sense of family within our Oak Lane community.

Do you offer both full-time and part-time?

Our hours of operation are 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM.  We do not offer half-day programs, but children are not required to attend the entire time.  Our oldest students, who are four to five years old, attend on a full-time basis only in order to adequately prepare them for Kindergarten.  Our other children attend either two, three or five days per week.

What is the caregiver-to-child ratio?

Our Toddlers – 13 children to 4 adults, Young Threes – 9 children to 2 adults, Older Threes – 12 children to 2 adults, Four-Fives – 17 children to 3 adults

What activities are provided?

The well-educated staff provides a stimulating environment for the children to develop and learn. The head teachers plan weekly themes such as: transportation, weather, health, and restaurants – to encourage the children to explore and learn the big world through creative interactive play.  Our curriculum is developmentally appropriate. It is based on what is known about how children develop and learn. Young children need concrete, hands-on experiences and lots of time to explore along with knowledgeable adults to facilitate their learning:

•    They learn about cause and effect by mixing red and yellow paint to get orange, by raising caterpillars to be butterflies, by watching behaviors of others and talking about the consequences.
•    They learn about seriation by building with blocks, playing with Cuisenaire rods and acting out stories.
•    They learn about sequencing by cooking, getting dressed, repeating daily routines and observing the seasonal changes.
•    They learn about comparing and contrasting by singing quietly and softly, by packing a snowball with and without mittens and by celebrating different holidays.
•    They learn about classifying by sorting buttons, by finding a seat at the snack table or a place in line and by making collections.
•    They learn about physics by watching snow melting in the water table, balancing on the beam, swinging on the swing and running down the hill.
•    They learn about botany by collecting fall leaves, examining seeds and planting flowers.
•    They learn about zoology by studying the butterfly, examining bugs through a magnifying glass and meeting with the naturalist.
•    They learn about sociology by rehearsing adult roles in the housekeeping corner, learning about families and communities, adjusting to being part of the group and making and keeping friends.
•    They develop eye-hand coordination by climbing ladders, pouring juice, turning pages in a book, coloring, cutting and painting.
•    They learn various ways in which to paint. They learn to recognize various musical instruments and the joy of singing. They learn the difference between a hop and a jump. They learn the satisfaction of a job well done. They learn to employ new words and complex syntax, to be patient, to ask questions, to listen to answers, to share, to understand that is all right to make mistakes and to be silly.
•    They learn that learning is fun and that childhood is a journey—not a race.

The teachers bring their knowledge of child development and their experience in working with children to the classroom. It is their responsibility to collect information regarding each child’s progress, document what the children know and use the data to design learner-centered environments and plan effective strategies for implementing the curriculum.

Our teachers’ classroom activities are supplemented by monthly visits from a naturalist, a storyteller and a music teacher, who comes twice a month for our younger students. Our older preschoolers also enjoy bimonthly visits from a specialist in American Sign Language, and monthly visits from a science specialist. In addition, our teachers work collaboratively with any educational consultants that may be assigned to a child who has been identified as having special needs.

Tell me about your 25th Annual Fundraiser.

The original Annual Fundraiser started as a pot-luck dinner with a live goods and services auction that was held at Oak Lane, and then moved out to the Chappaqua Community Center.  Many of the goods and services were (and still are) donated by members of our local business community.  The auctioneer, Bill Harden, is the husband of one of the original Board members of Oak Lane, Ann Harden.  He ran a lively, fun-filled auction that people came to look forward to each year.

As the Center grew and times changed, we decided to enhance the quality of the event by moving it to Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant and changing the focus in order to honor people who have been so supportive of the center.  Since we started this format, we have honored Stuart Beeber, MD, Ann and Bill Harden, and three of Oak Lane’s head teachers.  This year, our honoree is Evan Glassman.  John Crabtree and his staff have provided extraordinary support and helped to create an outstanding event.  For the past two summers, Oak Lane has been the recipient of Mr. Crabtree’s Sparkle for a Cause Night at the Kittle House.

Besides attending the Gala, how else can residents support Oak Lane Child Care Center?

There are many ways that residents can support Oak Lane.  Our primary needs are financial.  It is challenging to be able to provide our educated staff with a competitive salary and benefits and meet our financial obligations because almost all of our income is derived from tuition.  Since we serve working households, we try to keep tuitions as low as possible.  One means of support would be local merchants and residents attending our annual fundraiser, and donating goods and services for our Auction.  This would enable us to raise much-needed revenue.  In the past, residents have donated such things as a week at a vacation home, or a plane ride. 

The community could also support our various smaller fundraisers.  We have an annual appeal letter in October and November.  We also have an ongoing fundraiser that entails selling gift cards that purchasers can spend at local establishments to cover day-to-day expenses such as gasoline and groceries.  As a local resident said some years ago, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Oak Lane provides an invaluable service to our families, who include local residents and many of the teachers who work in the Chappaqua schools.  Somehow over the years, we have always been the best kept secret in Chappaqua.  It would be extremely beneficial if, when prospective buyers come to the area to work with our local Realtors, the Realtors could promote Oak Lane as an additional quality of life benefit of moving to this area.


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