The Block Connection

Sharing the Legacy of Caroline Pratt

Part 1

Caroline Pratt, inventor of the unit block system, founded the progressive City and Country School in 1914. Ten years ago, the school developed the Block Connection initiative as a way to open communication between their teachers and teachers from Head Start, day care and public schools.

Maria Nunziata is the principal of PS130 in Brooklyn. Principal Nunziata explained that a couple of years ago, she and her administration had shared a concern that Early Childhood students were not engaging in purposeful play, including in the PreK and Kindergarten block areas. They were interested in expanding the Professional Development structure for their teachers to include work on developing language and materials. Former PS130 Assistant Principal Caroline Thaler then began researching block play as a way to involve students and teachers in deeper work. Her research brought her to the City and Country School.

The City and Country School collaborated with PS130 in Brooklyn over a period of 18 months. Teachers from PS130 participated in a 2-part workshop at City and Country, and they also visited the school to observe children working with blocks. City and Country teachers, in turn, visited PS 130 to observe those same teachers, and met with them to discuss challenges that were emerging in their practice. PS 130 teachers also received a workshop in the new communal block space at their school, and collaborated in decision-making regarding the room set up and how guidelines would be developed together with their students.

According to PS130 Principal Nunziata, it is a joy to watch her students at work in the new school block room. She described several block play projects, including the building of a subway system.

PS130 Kindergarten teacher Manal Mansour also shared her thoughts: The Block Connection experience has been amazing. PS130 has been inspired by C&C and our block room has been transformed with the help of the parents. Each grade extends their unit of study into the block room. Each class has the block room for an entire week: Day 1-brainstorming ideas, Day 2- sketching design, Day 3&4- building and Day 5- adding details. We also allow an extra day for students to play with their creation. I truly have learned so much visiting C&C, and I feel confident implementing it on my own. Children do learn while playing!”

Four teachers from the City and Country School share their impressions of the Block Connection project in the following two blog posts.

Image from the City and Country School website