Why Bank Street?

History & Philosophy

Bank Street School for Children was founded in 1916 in New York City by visionary educator Lucy Sprague Mitchell as The Bureau of Educational Experiments, a laboratory nursery school staffed by teachers, psychologists, and researchers who worked collaboratively to discover the environments in which children grew and learned to their full potential and to educate teachers on how to create these environments in the classroom.


The Bureau set up shop at 69 Bank Street in 1930 and remained there until 1970, when it moved to its present location on West 112th Street. Today, Bank Street comprises a Graduate School to train teachers; a full program of children’s services, including the School for Children; and an array of outreach programs for educators and the community at large.


The School for Children is an independent demonstration school for Bank Street College and a working model of the College’s approach to teaching and learning. Education at the School is experience-based, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. The emphasis is on educating the whole child—the entire emotional, social, physical, and intellectual being—while valuing and reinforcing the child’s integrity as learner, teacher, and classmate.

The School is divided into Lower (nursery–kindergarten), Middle (grades 1–4), and Upper (grades 5–8) Schools to accommodate the different developmental stages and curriculum needs of children. We offer a rich learning environment for students while providing the College with a setting for teacher training, educational research, and the development of curriculum materials.

The School is truly a “demonstration” school. It embodies all the principles of children’s growth and learning derived from Bank Street’s philosophy of progressive education and embodies the “ideal” representation of that philosophy in action. Thus, the School is the standard by which the College evaluates and attempts to improve education in other schools, particularly New York City public schools and school systems across the country.

The School for Children and the College have a common administration and share the building at 610 West 112th Street between Broadway and Riverside Drive on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.


The mission of Bank Street College is to improve the education of children and their teachers by applying to the educational process all available knowledge about learning and growth, and by connecting teaching and learning meaningfully to the outside world. In so doing, we seek to strengthen not only individuals, but also the community, including family, school, and the larger society in which adults and children, in all their diversity, interact and learn. We see in education the opportunity to build a better society.

Lucy Sprague Mitchell at chalkboard


Over a century ago, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Bank Street’s founder, wrote a credo that continues to define the spirit of imaginative and critical inquiry that motivates and guides our work today:

What potentialities in human beings—children, teachers, and ourselves—do we want to see develop?

  • A zest for living that comes from taking in the world with all five senses alert
  • Lively intellectual curiosities that turn the world into an exciting laboratory and keep one ever a learner
  • Flexibility when confronted with change and ability to relinquish patterns that no longer fit the present
  • The courage to work, unafraid and efficiently, in a world of new needs, new problems, and new ideas Gentleness combined with justice in passing judgments on other human beings
  • Sensitivity, not only to the external formal rights of the “other fellow,” but to him as another human being seeking a good life through his own standards
  • A striving to live democratically, in and out of schools, as the best way to advance our concept of democracy
  • Our credo demands ethical standards as well as scientific attitudes. Our work is based on the faith that human beings can improve the society they have created.

Spotlight on Progressive Education

Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find
Any two educators who describe themselves as sympathetic to this tradition may well see it differently, or at least disagree about which features are the most important. Talk to enough progressive educators, in fact, and you’ll begin to notice certain paradoxes: Some focus on the unique needs of individual students, while others invoke the importance of a community of learners; some describe learning as a process, more journey than destination, while others believe that tasks should result in authentic products that can be shared.
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