Experience Early Childhood at Portledge

At Portledge, we believe in the gift of childhood! Guided by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of Early Childhood Education, we respect children’s right to play, to discover, to collaborate, to construct, and to experience joyful learning. We are inspired by the spark in their eyes, huge smiles, warm embraces, exuberant moments, and the curiosity that children bring to school every day. Our Early Childhood program is designed around children and our units of study are influenced by the student’s interests, questions, and passions.

The classroom and specials teachers collaborate to offer children a range of deep, meaningful learning opportunities. We understand that children thrive when they feel safe, loved, understand the routine and structure of the day, and when they are given space to explore, experiment, and wonder.

When your child becomes a Portledge student, your child will;
  • experience joyful learning. Learning should be fun and engaging and we strive to create meaningful learning opportunities while introducing children to the outdoors, art studio, science lab, drama, music, and library.
  • benefit from small class sizes in an intimate and family-like setting.
  • develop deep and lasting friendships that positively shape childhood. Portledge is a community where children are accepted for who they are. Children tend to embrace each other here. The teachers help facilitate relationships and model our pillars of kindness, purpose, honor, and respect. They promote skills such as sharing, communication, and productive feedback.
  • play and learn outdoors as often as possible. Our 63-acre campus is our second classroom and lends itself to natural exploration and learning.
  • feel safe and cared for. Our teachers are passionate about Early Childhood Education and they will care deeply for your child. They receive continued training in social-emotional learning including The RULER Approach and Mindfulness. Safety is a priority at Portledge and our security personnel greets families at the entrance of campus and the Lower School Building.
  • participate in and be welcomed into a warm school community that includes assemblies, plays, musical performances, and art shows. They will interact with older children who are eager to play with them in the classroom or read a story to the class.
Within the Portledge Early Childhood program, you can expect:
  • a robust curriculum and program that is designed to fully prepare your child for Kindergarten and beyond. Our students not only learn the basic skills and knowledge they will need for elementary school success, but they also develop independence, social skills, and problem-solving skills that build the foundation for life success.
  • teachers who are invested in your child’s well being and growth. Your child will be known by all the adults in the building, administrators, specials teachers, nurse, and cafeteria staff.
  • teachers that will actively partner with you to guide your child on a path of purposeful learning. The teachers will take the time to get to know your family, and your child including their interests, strengths, challenges, fears, and hopes. As a parent, you will receive three report cards a year, two scheduled parent-teacher conferences a year, and documentation of a child’s learning and growth.
“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences”
- Loris Malaguzzi

How an Italian Approach to Early Childhood Education Inspired Teaching & Learning at Portledge School.

by Leigh Farrell & Katie Henry '99

After World War II, parents and townspeople of the city of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy set their minds to building a school that would help to ensure a better future for their children. Brick by brick, the townspeople began to rebuild their community by creating a school that would encourage a new way of educating and learning. Their goal was to build a school that embodied the principles of respect, responsibility, and community in an enriched environment that supported discovery and exploration through a self-guided curriculum. These educational methods, designed by founder Loris Malaguzzi, began the groundwork for what is now the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood learning. Today, Reggio Emilia is a world renowned approach influencing the education of young children and teachers around the globe.

Each year, educators from all over the world attend the international conferences held at The Loris Malaguzzi Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy, to deepen their understanding of the principles of this approach and draw inspiration from its schools and researchers. Ten Portledge teachers are among those who have had the privilege of attending the Loris Malaguzzi Center and now incorporate the Reggio Emilia philosophy at Portledge.

Subtle elements of each faculty’s Reggio Emilia experience are evident in their implementation of the Portledge curriculum and in their interactions with their students. Children are encouraged to explore their interests deeply and share their learning. In the younger grades, students lead the way as the themes and topics of study emerge from their interests. Deep thinking and observation are inherent in both the teachers’ and students’ daily experiences. Methods of recording observations to share with others are integral to our Reggio Emilia journey. Our youngest children are active learners by persistently seeking answers to their questions and solutions to their problems, using a variety of means including interviewing experts,conducting experiments, consulting text, and engaging in collaborative problem solving.

Collaboration among faculty, parents, students, and outside community members broadens the scope of learning for all active participants. At Portledge, young children are afforded a great amount of responsibility and are held accountable to be respectful and active members of the classroom and community. As you walk by the colorful and interactive classrooms, that many refer to as their second home, you notice children’s thinking and learning documented on the walls, hear animated voices debating a topic, and observe children collaborating to build their new masterpiece. Teachers can be found provoking discussions, facilitating small group projects, and documenting student voice. Following these practices, Early Childhood education at Portledge respects children’s intrinsic sense of wonder by providing them time and space to play, interact, and construct their own meaning of the world. This approach to education has become a natural fit at Portledge, echoing our mission: Portledge School offers a competitive college preparatory program in a warm, inclusive community. Students are inspired to realize their individual potential by developing the critical thinking skills and moral courage necessary for lifelong learning in an increasingly complex world.

For more information on Portledge Early Childhood Programs please contact: 

Leigh Farrell 
Director, Early Childhood Programs


List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Leigh DeMaria

    Leigh DeMaria 

    Director of Early Childhood / Assistant Director of Lower School
    (516) 750-3224
  • Photo of Saralyn Lawn

    Saralyn Lawn 

    Director of Lower School
    (516) 750-3134
  • Photo of Lauren Domaradzki

    Lauren Domaradzki 

    Dean of Students for Lower School / Hiring Coordinator
    (516) 750-3195

School hours

Pre-Nursery: 8:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Nursery: 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Prekindergarten: 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

**You can now customize your child's PreK experience to meet your family's unique scheduling needs. Reach out to Leigh DeMaria to hear about our flexible options.**

Early Childhood Programs

List of 3 items.

An Early Childhood Day:

Our days begin at 8:30 am. Children are greeted at the door by their teacher and welcomed to begin the morning free play or a project designed to spark their curiosity. The morning follows with a morning meeting where children learn how to express themselves and share their news and thinking with the class. The schedule, calendar, and weather are discussed.
Our day continues with a variety of activities including but not limited to:
  • Projects based on student interest
  • Play-based centers
  • Art
  • Science
  • Drama
  • Music
  • P.E.
  • Library
  • French (Pre-K)
  • Snack
  • Outdoor play
  • Drawer’s workshop (N and Pre-K)
  • Phonics and literacy (Pre-K)
  • Handwriting (Pre-K)
  • Calendar Math (Pre-K)