Our Approach

Our approach to progressive education prepares thoughtful, productive citizens for a world that is increasingly fast-paced, global, and diverse.

Bank Street has a long history of leadership in progressive education. At the heart of everything we do is an ongoing process of inquiry into what works best for children at each stage of their development. As part of Bank Street College of Education, which includes the nation’s leading graduate school for teachers and leaders in education for children, the Bank Street School for Children is continually refining and applying best practices based on an understanding of what works for children and their teachers.

For School for Children students and educators, progressive education translates into a dynamic, experience-based curriculum that responds to the needs of the whole child. At Bank Street, learning becomes an active, lifelong endeavor in which children and adults alike engage as careful observers, experimenters, and creative thinkers.

Bank Street’s founders understood that there was a close relationship between childhood development and learning, and that children’s emotional lives are inseparable from their learning, interests, and motivation. Influenced by the progressive movement of the early twentieth century and the ideas of educational theorist John Dewey, they set out to study how children learn and to create classrooms that embodied the ideals and practices of a democratic community. In contrast to the rote learning practices prevalent at that time, teachers encouraged children to be active: to venture out and inquire about the world around them.

Infused with vibrancy, energy, and enthusiasm, the School for Children continues to prepare students to be lifelong learners and to be responsive to the demands of our increasingly global society and rapidly evolving economy. Our program nurtures an appreciation of and empathy for people of different cultures. Children have opportunities to work collaboratively and effectively toward common goals while building the social, emotional, and cognitive skills essential for success in school and in life.

At Bank Street, teaching and learning continues to develop. Please read the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan to find out how the Bank Street community is preparing to teach and learn for the future.

Middle school teacher working with a child

Learning What Works Best for Children

When Lucy Sprague Mitchell founded Bank Street in 1916, she set out to create an environment for interdisciplinary collaboration among teachers and researchers through which they could explore how to best nurture children’s growth and development. Mitchell and her colleagues saw children as unique and complex human beings blessed at birth with an avid desire to learn. They knew that nurturing this desire would fuel a lifetime love of learning and believed that children are happiest—and learn best—in classrooms tailored to their age and stage of development.
Middle School students work together in class

A Focus on the Whole Child

Through the ongoing study of how children learn, Bank Street created the developmental-interaction approach to teaching and learning. Grounded in a deep understanding of the natural stages of children’s growth, this philosophy engages the whole child for optimal cognitive, social, and emotional development and creates learning environments in which students are actively involved with the world around them to support meaningful learning. These ideas are the basis for everything we do at Bank Street.
Math Lab project at the Upper School

An Inquiry-Based Curriculum

Children learn best when they arrive at their own meaning. Bank Street teachers encourage and facilitate student questioning, exploration, collaboration, and discovery. This climate of inquiry nurtures children’s ability to reflect on their own process and learning as well as their capacity for focused, goal-directed thinking. At the heart of Bank Street’s success are adult-child interactions that support each child’s learning and a social environment in which each child is known and respected as an individual.