When walking into the Friends Together Nursery School, one is greeted with colorful murals painted by children, the sound of children’s voices as they sing and various rooms filled with toys, art supplies and educational games. This is exactly what founder and director Christie Mucci envisioned when she thought of opening a preschool.
“I’ve always loved teaching,” said Manhasset resident Mucci. “I’ve been teaching since 1970. I worked in the city and then in Hunter College Elementary, a school for the gifted in the city. I stopped teaching to raise my family and I had a business for a while, but I always had it in my mind that I would open a school. When my son went off to college, I went off to college and got my master’s at 50. I started the school with three children and two teachers.”
Since opening the original building, Friends Together Nursery School has expanded to two adjacent buildings, two outdoor playgrounds and Mucci’s favorite part, the garden. Each building contains a multipurpose room and a gym filled with squishy climbers while the main building has a library full of color-coded books to kickstart a love of reading.
Mucci offers a half-day program from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., an extended day program from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and an enrichment program from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for kids from 18 months to four years old. She also offers an afterschool program for kindergarten through fifth grade and a summer camp from June 12 to Aug. 18. Mucci will begin an early program for five-year-old for the 2017-18 year designed for children whose birthdays fall late in the year and have completed a four-year-old program available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s a hybrid nursery school daycare,” said Mucci. “These buildings open at 7 a.m. We’re able to give a broad experience to families. Unlike other places who say ‘these are the programs you offer, you have to fit in,’ I take a family, meet the family, find out their needs. I’ll find out how many days a week they need, how many hours and I establish a contract for the child. It works well because in this day and age people still work 9 to 5, but there are many other variations.”
Friends Together Nursery School provides a fun stepping stone to kindergarten as children learn while they play. Mucci makes sure kids are never bored as she is constantly stimulating them with her gym, library, multipurpose room filled with toys or educational lessons. Kids who attend learn a variety of subjects, including art, poetry, history, science and mathematics throughout their day.
“We have different centers,” said Mucci. “There’s the listening center, there’s a music center, an art center and an office. Everyday there is an agenda, so the children know exactly what they’re doing. They’re moving around a lot. I like to think that there’s learning going on, but also a lot of fun. Our job is to help them develop certain social skills and prepare them to feel good about learning and to feel confident because when they go to kindergarten they’re going to have to be independent.”
On Mondays children experience a music class, on Wednesdays kids get to enjoy learning about art from a local artist and on Thursdays and Fridays, movement classes are put on in the gym. Children get to try different sports each week with a Jump Bunch program. While the school has programs to get kids moving and singing, they also offer language programs, teaching youngsters how to speak languages such as Spanish or Italian.
Currently the children are learning about famous artists such as Van Gogh and Andy Warhol. After each lesson about an artist, the children recreate a famous painting done by that artist with their own individual spin on it. The four-year-old children will soon learn about the life-cycle of a butterfly from live larva Mucci ordered, later to be released as butterflies.
“What we give parents at the end of the time here is the gift of education about their child’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Mucci. “What kind of a learner are they? Are they an auditory learner, are they a visual learner, are they a tactile learner or a combination of all three? That’s a very important piece of information.”
Children are given individualized attention throughout the day with classroom ratios of two American Red Cross- and EpiPen-certified teachers to every 10 students, allowing for personalized teaching and care. Mucci stresses that safety is a number-one priority at her licensed daycare facilities, explaining that drills are conducted each month, fire marshals check the buildings a few times a year and children will not be released to anyone but their parent without prior notification, showing that she only wants the best for her schools.
“I want to say that I am just very blessed,” said Mucci. “My staff is really wonderful. Sometimes parents will come up to me and say I’m doing such a great job, but it’s really a team effort that makes us what we are.”
Friends Together Nursery School is located at 4 Manhasset Ave., Port Washington. For more information, call 516-767-7020 or visit www.friendstogethernursery.com.