Pre-schoolers send banner to Ground Zero

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In nearly every nook and cranny of the Bayside Kindergarten and Nursery school there are the bright colors of children’s paintings or the happy noises of preschoolers singing or at play.

With the help of one of the grandparents of the children at Bayside nursery school, at least some of that spirit made its way to one of the city’s darkest places: Ground Zero.

Director Lenore Rappaport said the banner from the Bayside nursery school — which features children’s handprints in red and blue paint with the words “Thank You” and “Bayside Nursery School” across it — was taken into Manhattan by one of the children’s grandparents and hung at Ground Zero just a couple of weeks after the destruction of the Twin Towers.

Now, she said in a recent interview, the banner hangs on one of the last remaining structures in that area and is easily visible to the firefighters, police officers and emergency workers who have been toiling at Ground Zero for weeks.

The Bayside Kindergarten and Nursery School has been bringing smiles to children’s faces for 54 years, said Rappaport, who now keeps a framed photo of the banner hanging at Ground Zero in her office.

“One of the firefighters from Springfield Boulevard came in and gave it to me,” she said of the photo.

About 125 children from the ages of 2 to 5 or 6 attend the school, Rappaport said, which was established in 1947 and has been operating out of the basement of Temple Beth Sholom on Northern Boulevard for about 45 years.

The irrepressible giggling of children rings throughout the school, and Rappaport, who has been involved for 40 years, is the kind of director who often laughs with them.

“Learning can be fun,” she said, smiling as she watched a group of youngsters playing in an indoor gymnasium. “And it’s done through many different concepts.”

Rappaport said the school uses activities like sensory perception, games, and songs to teach children how to develop both language skills and refine their coordination.

“It’s not rote,” she said of the activities of children at the school. “It’s actually a part of play.”

The Bayside nursery school enjoys an active parent base, Rappaport said, which ads a layer of enrichment to the children’s activities when parents come in to discuss their various jobs.

The school, which is also a site for Universal Pre-Kindergarten for School District 25, helps students experience living, learning and working with people from all cultures.

Queens is considered one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the nation and that cultural variety is easily apparent in the student body of the Bayside nursery school where some young students learn English through the games and songs they play.

“It gives them a chance to experience the cultures and is a good social experience,” Rappaport said. “Students who can’t speak English are so young they pick it up very quickly.”

One of the activities Rappaport is most proud of is the school’s annual holiday party with children from St. Mary’s Hospital in Bayside.

“We have a party with St. Mary’s,” she said of the event scheduled for Dec. 20. “They come here and play and its a lot of fun.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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