Your NYC Neighbor – is a way of introducing New Yorkers to a rich community of savvy parents. New York is a diverse City bustling with all kinds of families and personalities. We also love to grab tips and recommendations from moms and dads in certain neighborhoods and throughout the 5 Boroughs, and especially people who have created a product, service or site that helps new parents or appeals to children. Meet Daniel Koffler at Explore + Discover.
Daniel – tell us about yourself
I grew up in Great Neck, NY, just outside of the city. Went to college in DC at George Washington University, where I met my wife. I’ve been working with my father (and brother) since I graduated from college (roughly 10 years ago)—I have the greatest job in the world: we are school operators, and as such, get to have a direct impact on countless families and individuals every day. It’s a big responsibility, and we take it very seriously—but have a lot of fun doing it. I am married and have an amazing daughter (my wife is amazing too!).
Tell us about your latest venture?
Our latest venture is an early childhood program called Explore + Discover (www.explorediscover.net). The premise behind the program is that while there is (and has been) quite a bit of attention to the preschool years in the private sector in NYC for a long time—and recently, a big push to open Pre K programming to all NYC students—there hasn’t been much attention paid to early childhood opportunities for families and children before that point in the development cycle.
Location: 444 2nd Ave, NY NY
Center size: 80 students
Student ages: 3m-23 months
Curriculum: Arts Oriented
Classes start: Sept 8
When we started looking around to see if our hunch was indeed a reality, it turned out we were indeed correct. That’s not to say there isn’t programming available for the 0m-3yr population—there is, and some of it is pretty good. Our approach is a bit different, in that we are taking into consideration the science behind brain development in the early childhood population and using that as a foundation for the establishment of a safe, nurturing and developmentally-appropriate setting for infants and toddlers to realize their potential, and be well-prepared both academically and socially-emotionally, for the next stage(s) of life and development.
Sounds like expensive daycare … what’s different about Explore + Discover?
You know, when you think about it, isn’t what I’m describing what everyone would want—and expect from a professionally organized program—for their child? I think the primary difference is that we are DOING it! To our knowledge, and we did a good bit of research locally, nationally and internationally, there aren’t many programs that are built to the specifications of this population.
Generally what you’ll find are thoughtful and highly-regarded nursery age programs who may have created a section for infants and toddlers as an accommodation to current families with younger children/siblings. There are also larger scale daycare centers that cater to large corporations as an accommodation to employees. Both of these scenarios can offer many benefits, and I don’t mean to use the word ‘accommodating’ in a negative or dismissive manner!
Rather, we think that infants and toddlers are a very different population than nursery-age children, and deserve their own environment and everything that goes into creating that. To name a few of the thoughtful things that our leadership team established in creating this program, contrary to the traditional 0-12, 13-24 month model that is very prevalent in a daycare/infant & toddler setting, we have created another layer of division in there, so our model looks like this: 3-9 months, 10-17 months, and 18-24 months. This was a decision based on typical/developmentally appropriate mobility of the children in these age groups, and when you think about it, makes a lot of sense!
We are also doing a number of things to keep parents very much involved in the process, and one thing that sticks out to me is a Nursing Room that we’ve created to allow nursing mothers to be with their children or simply be on-site during the day without having to consider how to address this very real and practical aspect of early childhood!
There is so much more that I could go into—my recommendation for anyone interested in learning more about those nuances, though, is to give us a call or pay us a visit!
Can I enroll my baby now? Mid-term?
Absolutely. While we start the school year in September, it’s a relatively flexible schedule in that families can join us at any point in the year without fear of being left out of the earlier programming. Reality is, children are born every day, so we take applications every day!
How qualified are your teachers?
As qualified as I’ve seen in any early childhood setting anywhere, period. My general business mantra is you can promote, market, or otherwise pound your chest about how good your product/service is all you want, but we don’t determine the market’s view, the market does! In other words, quality is key, above all else. In this line of work, quality is directly related to the training and abilities of the staff who administer the program and work with the students.
From our Educational Director, to our key administrators at the school, to the classroom instructors, EVERYONE has a background in early childhood settings. Head Teachers all have Masters degrees, as do a number of our assistant teachers. In addition, the majority come with other key experiences, either having worked with a variety of different age students in the past and understanding from that perspective what is/isn’t developmentally appropriate, to multiple languages and skills (music, art, etc…) that they employ in incredibly creative ways throughout the day.
We also organize a pretty in-depth staff orientation/training program called Creative Brain Institute, which occurs before school opens each year. We bring in resources from all over the field of early childhood to ignite debate and share ideas on best practices, as well as provide a venue for staff to come together as a team. It was a great success this year and will only get better as we move forward.
Explore + Discover isnt in my neighborhood or Borough, or I’m newly pregnant & planning a family now – can I be put on a wait-list?
Certainly! Call us – 212 867 3386 – as soon as you are ready so we can reserve space!!
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Your Baby could Discover Music, Art, Spanish and Explore Beautiful Spaces, Outdoor Play Areas, Nature, Classmates, Themselves … and the World.