But inside, the building bustles with youthful energy as toddlers erect shaky towers from misaligned building blocks, or hurry to finish their Happy Birthday pictures for a lucky student celebrant.All the while, attentive teachers stand to the side, smiling patiently and chiming in with alternative tasks if the energy level gets too high.It is a typical preschool play scene that instructors at the facility, which was founded as a non-profit, non-sectarian school in 1956, say has changed only slightly over the last 50 years. In 1998 it added a universal kindergarten class sponsored by the Department of Education. Since the 1950s, the school has managed to thrive, affording the teachers the opportunity to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary this year with a brunch and dinner. The details of the events have not yet been finalized.The biggest change, they say, is reflective of Queens itself as the school, located at 150-03 Bayside Ave., becomes more and more diverse."It has become a very multi-cultural school," said Joanne Koenig, a 30-year employee of the school, "but it reflects the neighborhood and that's changed over the years."But the teachers say that does not mean the curriculum needs to change. When asked if there are challenges dealing with the influx of new cultures, the teachers merely shrug. Aside from minor language barriers, they said the last thing the students are worried about are the backgrounds of each other."We tell children that not everybody celebrates Christmas or Diwali," Koenig said. "But we want to promote self-esteem and good self-image."In the classroom, Koenig asked the children to explain why they were making cards for the birthday student.Not many children responded, but one girl, her tongue pursed on her lips in concentration, was busy decorating her card with a very large white circle; she immediately set down her crayon and ran over to embrace the birthday girl, who smiled widely and hugged her back."There are great rewards in teaching young children," Koenig later said." You get to see them grow so fast. A year of growth is amazing."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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