The founders of the Blue Man Group designed the pre-K and elementary school as an alternative to the New York school scene -- and parents are lining up.
THE BLUE PHILOSOPHY Learning the fun way
Talk about brand extension. The founders of the Blue Man Group last fall launched the Blue School, a paint-spraying, drum-thumping pre-K and elementary school that uses art to introduce kids to reading, science, and math. And affluent New York City parents are fighting to get their kids in. The school got about 200 applications for just 20 spots. The school offers classes through first grade and plans to expand by one grade per year up to fifth grade.
Original blue men Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton, together with their wives, Jen Wink, Renee Rolleri, and Jennifer Stanton, conceived the school as an alternative to the New York school scene. "There's this incredible pressure in Manhattan private schools to get young children into Harvard. Like, at 2," says Rolleri, whose background is in art therapy and child development. The Blue School, Goldman says, was a response to what was "not happening" in education. "Schools are educating creativity and innovation out of children," he says, "and sucking the joy out of that experience."
No chance of that happening at the Blue School, which takes its inspiration from the rollicking Blue Man Group performances. On one typical day, half a dozen 3-year-olds tumble and shriek with delight in the Wonder Room, which is padded with thick, oddly shaped multicolored cushions and has panels of lights that blink when kids jump on them. A large pirate ship takes up an entire wall in a classroom next door. "Our teachers lead discussions with the students to see what subjects they want to study," says Rolleri. "And then build a unit out of that." Adds Goldman: "Studies show if kids choose the curriculum, they learn more." And they have more fun doing it. "In fact, we find that Saturdays can be rough in our house," Goldman says. "Our son wakes up and says, 'Is it a Blue School day?' "
The $27,000 tuition for kindergarten and first grade includes a weekly visit from both a yoga instructor and a puppeteer. Still, the school needs more funds for its planned expansion. So the Blue School has a lot riding on its annual gala fundraising event, scheduled for April 2. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart is hosting, and actor Billy Crudup is performing. Among the gala's committee members are Mary Louise Parker and Rachel Weisz, as well as Weisz's filmmaker partner Darren Aronofsky. Though he won't comment on which of these boldfaced names send their kids to the Blue School, "parental involvement is fundamental," says Goldman. "We're cultivating enquirers, both short and tall."
IMAGE: Courtesy the Blue School
Last updated: May 1, 2009
LIZ WELCH is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times, Real Simple, Glamour, and Inc., among other publications. She is the co-author with her siblings of the recent book The Kids Are All Right, a highly regarded memoir of her childhood. @lizmwelch