A snow day at the Phoebe Anna Thorne School
By Amana Abdurrezak
8:00 a.m. – The Calm Before the Storm
Early-bird parents, many who drop off their kids on their way to work, enter the Phoebe Anna Thorne School in the morning with a sigh of relief. Unlike the chilly air and silvery clouds that have enveloped the air outside, inside the school is a warm and colorful cocoon.
With hues of red and yellow, the entrance resembles an L shape: At the shorter end, some parents greet the teachers who oversee the kids’ day of play. At the longer end, others chat and examine the row of picture books that sit atop a long bookshelf.
Thorne School parents can find informational material about play-based learning and logistics at eye level regardless of where they stand. But three-feet below rows of flyers, the kids that trot in the entrance gravitate towards the whiteboard nestled outside of the pre-K classroom. It hints at the day ahead in different shades of purple marker.
It’s Thursday: Water beads, Pumpkin bars, Snow?!?
The Method Behind the Madness
The Phoebe Anna Thorne School, located on both Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College’s campuses, is an untraditional option for parents thinking about early education programs. The school is modeled around the philosophy of “play-based learning” and has kindergarten, toddler, preschool, language-enrichment and early-intervention programs.
“We focus on child development as opposed to academics,” says Amanda Ulrich, the director of the Thorne School, “We think about each individual child and what their needs are whereas a lot of other schools stick with a curriculum.”
Ulrich is normally hustling around the floor, especially on late-minute snow days when kids need to go home early. In her calf-high boots, black leggings, and jersey-shirt-and-cardigan combo, she is answering questions from kids, figuring out logistics with teachers, and answering phone calls from parents.
You won’t find her wearing a hat, but she wears many of them as the director of the small operation. Her roles range from admissions and supervising the staff, to making sure there’s enough toilet paper in the bathroom and the kids get home safely.
Managing administrative work and budgeting are challenges, but she thoroughly enjoys her job and the mission of the school.
“The philosophy is rewarding because it’s organic and you see growth in ways that aren’t forced. Different kids have different experiences and you get to see them flower and bloom in different ways,” says Ulrich while keeping an eye on a boy who is anxious to get a glance at the snow. Continue reading