Our Progressive Curriculum

LREI is and has always been a mission-driven school. The school’s mission permeates everything that transpires here. This is true for the present, as well as the past.

LREI Mission Statement

A leader in progressive education since 1921, LREI teaches children to be independent thinkers who work together to solve complex problems.  Students graduate from our diverse community as active participants in our democratic society, with the creativity, integrity, and courage to bring meaningful change to the world.

1921
Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Elisabeth Irwin founded the Little Red School House in 1921 in the attic room of the P.S. 61 Annex at 535 East 16th Street as an alternative public elementary school. Parents and students loved the new dynamic learning community. It..Read More

1925
First June Camp

First June Camp

From 1925 through the early 1960s, all LREI students spent the month of June in the country. This was called June Camp. LREI continues this tradition with a four-day trip for lower school students we now call the Farm Trip.

1934
International Exhibit of Children’s Paintings Benefit

International Exhibit of Children’s Paintings Benefit

In 1934, LRSH organized the first International Exhibition of Children’s Painting at Rockefeller Center, representing work from forty countries. It honored the creativity of children on a scale that had never been imagined before, let alone attempted. Eleanor Roosevelt, the..Read More

1935
Children Experiment with Life

Children Experiment with Life

Students examine farm equipment at June Camp in the 1930s. “Just this, I should say is the task of education today – to change our school from monasteries into laboratories, laboratories not where educators experiment with children but where children..Read More

1939
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Students work independently, together, and with their teacher in this 1930s science classroom. Critical thinking must involve complete freedom of speech in the classroom. The child is not told what to think but rather is challenged to think straight. An..Read More

1939
Democracy Pamphlet

Democracy Pamphlet

As is promised in LREI’s mission statement, “Students graduate from our diverse community as active participants in our democratic society,…”  Elisabeth Irwin and three of her early colleagues, in the language of the times, shares their thoughts on this important..Read More

1942
THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE Published

THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE Published

Agnes Delima’s The Little Red School House is published. Contributors include Elisabeth Irwin, John Dewey, and LRSH teachers.

1944
EI Students Get to Know their Neighbors

EI Students Get to Know their Neighbors

EI students interview journalist Celila Ventura about her Italian heritage in an effort to understand the Italian-American community just east of the school. “Instead of interviewing, I was interviewed by thirty well-behaved, friendly children,” Ventura writes. “Their questions ranged from..Read More

1945
Students Mobilize for Yugoslav Relief

Students Mobilize for Yugoslav Relief

LRSH students participated in the American Committee for Yugoslav Relief’s Winter Clothing Campaign to aid Yugoslav children in need.

1945
LRSH Student Gives Speech Before State Legislature, Receives Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

LRSH Student Gives Speech Before State Legislature, Receives Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

Paul Coburn, a ten-year-old at LRSH, made a speech before the State Legislature, in favor of the Ives-Quinn Anti-Discrimination Bill, which would make New York the first state to enact legislation curtailing the practice of discriminating against job applicants and employees based on race, religion, or creed...Read More

1945
Democracy in the Classroom

Democracy in the Classroom

On democracy in the classroom: Of course the approach to this idea with very young children would necessarily and naturally be very different from that used with older children. … One does not use the word itself …[ b]ut one..Read More

1945
EI Students Send Christmas Boxes to European Children

EI Students Send Christmas Boxes to European Children

EI students send ninety Christmas boxes of goods to European children in need in Russia, Yugoslavia, France, and Greece.

1946
Students Visit Phelps-Dodge Strike

Students Visit Phelps-Dodge Strike

Ninth graders visit the Phelps-Dodge Strike at the Phelps-Dodge Copper Products Corporation plant in Elizabeth, NJ. The eight-month-old strike was one of the longest major industrial disputes on record in the nation, resulting in a 18.5% hourly wage increase and..Read More

1946
Integration in Baseball

Integration in Baseball

INFO, the school newspaper, devotes the majority of its February 1, 1946 issue to advocating for integration in baseball. INFO editors, harnessing the power of the press, write to sports writers of their day, and excerpted responses from eight journalists,..Read More

1947
Avon Long Performs at EI

Avon Long Performs at EI

Broadway star Avon Long performs at EI as part of Black History Week celebration.  

1947
Freedom of Speech in the Classroom

Freedom of Speech in the Classroom

Students in Mabel’s 9s class explore a map of the United States in the 1940s. Needless to say, this critical thinking must involve com­plete freedom of speech in the classroom. The child is not told what to think but rather..Read More

1948
Israel Drive

Israel Drive

EI held a month-long drive to aid people in Israel. The money collected was given to the United Palestine Appeal (UPA), a member of the a member agency of the United Jewish Appeal and a major fund raising agency for..Read More

1950
EI Marches with NAACP

EI Marches with NAACP

Elisabeth Irwin students marched with a delegation from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1950 to advocate for Congressional action on the passage of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). EI..Read More

1953
Sophomore Girls Visit Welfare Island

Sophomore Girls Visit Welfare Island

Three tenth grade EI students volunteer at the Metropolitan Hospital on Welfare Island. The students were members of the Councillettes of Jewish Women, an organization composed of girls from thirteen to seventeen years of age. Their job was to “keep..Read More

1954
Frank Silvera Visits EI

Frank Silvera Visits EI

As part of E.I.’s observance of Black History Week, Tony-nominated actor Frank Silvera, spoke to students about the history of Black actors in American theatre.

1954
Tribune Forum Exchange Students

Tribune Forum Exchange Students

For many years, LREI participated in the Herald Tribune Forum, which brought students to the U.S. from all over the world for a period of twelve weeks. LREI hosted students from many countries, including Kimiko Fujii from Japan, and Wentworth..Read More

1955
W.E.B. Dubois Visits

W.E.B. Dubois Visits

Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, well-known scholar, philosopher and writer, spoke to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades on February 14. His topic was freedom of opinion in the United States. In a short analysis of the fight for freedom of opinion..Read More

1955
A Lasting Imprint

A Lasting Imprint

Students attend a campaign assembly in the 1950s. A focus on politics not only will help our students learn about history, geography, math, science, and language arts, but also will allow them to fashion their own political lives. It will..Read More

1955
Natural Inquisitiveness

Natural Inquisitiveness

Progressive education works with a child’s natural inquisitiveness and desire to do, to experiment and to be involved. Progressive education asks students to truly understand a topic and to demonstrate and to defend their understanding. It asks them to think..Read More

1955

Pearl Primus Visits LRSH

Pearl Primus, one of America’s greatest interpretive dancers and PhD candidate in Anthropology at Columbia University, performs at LRSH. “There is music everywhere,” she said. “Music is in the wind whistling by my ears. I hear it in the quiet..Read More

1957
EI Students Attend Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

EI Students Attend Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

The date was May 17, 1957. Three years ago on that date the Supreme Court of the land added a new verse to freedom’s song. “Desegregate and state to integrate” chorused the nine men in black. And now three years..Read More

1957
Getting Along

Getting Along

EI students on a field trip in 1957. Just as our little children often say at home, “We don’t learn anything, we just have fun,” we would like our older children to feel “We don’t learn about democracy, we just..Read More

1957
10s Play About Integration

10s Play About Integration

A play by the 10s about integration was performed at an assembly in 1957, and then later at the high school. Teacher Mimi Levy transcribed phrases from class discussions of integration and turned their words into the script, which was..Read More

1957
We Need Our Park

We Need Our Park

LRSH students make an appeal to Mayor Robert F. Wagner, explaining why building a highway through Washington Square Park would be detrimental to the community.

1958
NAACP Youth Secretary Visits EI

NAACP Youth Secretary Visits EI

Herbert Wright, NAACP Youth Secretary, speaks to the EI student council

1958

Jackie Robinson Visits EI on Behalf of NAACP

In 1958, Jackie Robinson, ambassador of the NAACP, came to LREI with Herbert Wright, Youth Leader of the NAACP, to accept a check from EI students, funds raised to support their efforts in the fight for racial justice and to..Read More

1958
EI Students Attend Youth March for Integrated Schools

EI Students Attend Youth March for Integrated Schools

On Saturday, October 25, 1958, EI students traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Youth March for Integrated Schools led by A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, Coretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte, Bayard Rustin.

1958
Prime Minister Nehru Writes to Students at LRSH

Prime Minister Nehru Writes to Students at LRSH

In 1958, LRSH students sent Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India letters and drawings wishing him a happy birthday. In response, he wrote: I am glad to know that you have been learning about India in your class. India is..Read More

1958
Operation Pennsylvania

Operation Pennsylvania

EI students take a week-long trip to Pennsylvania to visit Amish farms, a steel plant, and a coal mine, among other stops, to learn about the work and lives of others. Read the trip objectives and itinerary here.

1959
Lorraine Hansberry Visits Book Week

Lorraine Hansberry Visits Book Week

On November 5, 1959, Lorraine Hansberry visited students to talk about her writing, including the play A Raisin in the Sun, as part of Book Week. LREI prides itself on shrinking the distance between the schoolhouse and the “real world.”..Read More

1960
Student UNICEF Drive

Student UNICEF Drive

LRSH students organize an annual drive to raise funds for UNICEF.

1960
EI Students Picket Woolworth’s

EI Students Picket Woolworth’s

Students from EI picket Woolworths at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue as part of a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) drive.

1960
Sensory Experiences

Sensory Experiences

Students sketch Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Carmine Street from Father Demo Square in 1960. Whoever took this photo likely recognized the beauty of being given time to explore materials and to engage in the sensory experiences that are..Read More

1962

School Drive for Migrant Children

Students watched one of the most celebrated documentaries of all time, 1960’s “Harvest of Shame,” in which Edward R. Murrow exposed the plight of America’s farm workers. Students collected $486.00 to pay the expenses of representatives traveling through migrant areas,..Read More

1963

March on Washington

EI students travel to Washington D.C. to attend the March on Washington D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he called for an end to racism.”..Read More

1964
Students Visit Pennsylvania Coal Mines

Students Visit Pennsylvania Coal Mines

As part of our social studies course, the 11th grade took a 6 day trip to Pennsylvania. The three main objectives of the trip were to study coal mining conditions in the mining towns themselves and to visit farms of..Read More

1964

EI Students Participate in World’s Fair Demonstrations

Thirty EI students joined the demonstration on opening day of the 1964 World’s Fair. The students picketed the Louisiana Pavilion led by James Farmer and Bayard Rustin. Four students were arrested including Lisa Fein (Gilford), Liz Leicester, and Tom Hurwitz,..Read More

1965
Democracy in Children’s Own Terms

Democracy in Children’s Own Terms

Students negotiate their play during recess on the roof in the 1960s. For the teacher whose eyes are open to the many human situations arising in group life, there is ample opportunity to discover and discuss problems of democracy in..Read More

1965
A Real Life Plan

A Real Life Plan

Students study and play together in the 1960s. Happiness comes from many sources but primarily, we believe, from an ability to make good social relationships and to find adequate expression for normal creative impulses. —Elisabeth Irwin: from A Real Life..Read More

1970
Progressive Education in Action

Progressive Education in Action

Joe’s story about his days at LREI reflect a progressive education in action. Listen here.

1970
LREI’s First Affinity Group

LREI’s First Affinity Group

The Organization of Afro-American Students (OAAS) forms in 1970, becoming LREI’s first affinity group. The stated purposes of the OAAS were: To promote unity among the Black students in the school To promote awareness of the Black Revolution To promote..Read More

1985
Parent-Created Big Books

Parent-Created Big Books

Students read together from a parent-created big book in the 1980s. Whenever parents offer their time and talents to students, a message is embedded within. The message is: you are important, your education can be fun and exciting, we believe..Read More

1985
The Democratic Classroom

The Democratic Classroom

Cleo Banks with her students in the 1980s. It is wrong to think that in a democratic class, the teacher abdicates and contents himself with counting votes. He must always remain the leader and the guide. The chil­dren must be..Read More

1988
LREI Intramural Basketball

LREI Intramural Basketball

LREI launches its all-inclusive intramural basketball program for fifth and sixth graders. Through participation on athletic teams students develop their physical skills and the ability to work together toward a common purpose; they also learn to represent the school within..Read More

1990
Willam Kunstler (P’94/P’96) Speaks at MLK Assembly

Willam Kunstler (P’94/P’96) Speaks at MLK Assembly

Lawyer, civil rights activist, and LREI parent William Kunstler spoke to students at the annual Martin Luther King Day assembly.

1997
LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA)

LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA)

Lower School Principal Elaine Winter and parent Alice Krauss, along with other parents, found the LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA).

1997

Visibility/Love Makes a Family

Beginning in 1997, LREI hosted an annual traveling photography exhibition entitled “Love Makes A Family” — focused on the families gay and lesbian couples create. In 2010, the LREI community decided to curate its own exhibit, “Visibility: Our LGBTQ+ Community..Read More

1999
New Middle School Building Opens

New Middle School Building Opens

The new three-story Middle School building opens at 272 Sixth Avenue, linking the existing lower school at 196 Bleecker Street and the middle school at Nos. 200 and 202, creating space to better support the school’s progressive practice. It stands..Read More

2001
The Bravest Girl: Ruby Bridges

The Bravest Girl: Ruby Bridges

In 2001, Shoshana and Suzanne’s first grade class read a book about Ruby Bridges, a first grader and the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis on..Read More

2003

LREI Marches in NYC Pride March

LREI marches in the New York City Pride March. For this annual event, LREI shares a float with the Calhoun School complete with a DJ “booth” and rainbows galore. (Photos in slideshow are from 2014)

2003
LREI Hires Director of Diversity and Community

LREI Hires Director of Diversity and Community

LREI hires Sharon Dupree as its first Director of Diversity and Community. Sandra “Chap” Chapman (also pictured here on the right) becomes Director of Equity and Community in 2007.

2004
The Community Service Roundtable

The Community Service Roundtable

Community service at LREI has been a core aspect of the school’s values, mission, and program since the school’s inception in the 1920s.  Our school’s mission statement underscores the importance of cultivating an ethic of service among all our students..Read More

2007
Students March to Fight Global Warming

Students March to Fight Global Warming

On Saturday, April 14, 2007 over 90 members of the LREI community covered themselves in blue and joined hands with thousands of others to form the human coastline around lower Manhattan called the Sea of People. Consisting of a U-shaped..Read More

2007
The Power and Price of Privilege

The Power and Price of Privilege

Tim Wise, Director of the Association for White Anti-racist Education (AWARE) came to LREI to facilitate dialogue on race and privilege in America with students, faculty, and parents. He discussed the historical foundations of white privilege and how it is..Read More

2008

First Eighth Grade Social Justice Project

One of the major themes of the eighth grade curriculum is active citizenship. In humanities classes, students work on the “Social Justice Project.” Students identify civil and human rights topics in which they are interested, and work in small groups..Read More

2012

First Middle School Medieval Guilds Presentation

One major project in sixth grade is the medieval pageant. Students choose from a variety of  guilds such as arms and armor, medicine, cartography, and music. They immerse themselves in their area of study over a significant period of time...Read More

2012

Adopt-a-Family Sandy Cleanup

On Friday, December 7, 2012, students took the ferry to Staten Island to help in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

2014
LREI Students at Drink Up with Michelle Obama

LREI Students at Drink Up with Michelle Obama

LREI students participated in Drink Up, a collaboration to encourage everyone to drink more water between the Partnership for a Healthier America – which works with the private sector and PHA Honorary Chairwoman Michelle Obama to make the healthy choice..Read More

2014
Student Walkout 2014

Student Walkout 2014

In December 2014, thousands of students from schools across the U.S. staged a massive walkout in solidarity with Ferguson and other communities affected by police violence. LREI high school and middle school students joined the many demonstrations that occurred in..Read More

2014
New High School Wing Opens

New High School Wing Opens

The Charlton Street Arts Pavilion opens, a five-story visual and performing arts addition at the High School with classrooms and studios designed to inspire and to create space to better support progressive practice.

2016
Working Toward Democracy

Working Toward Democracy

Fourth graders conducting an exit poll during the 2016 elections. As we continue to educate for and work toward democracy in the LREI community, in American society and throughout the world, it is heartening and inspiring to reflect on the..Read More

2016
New York Magazine Features LREI Protesters

New York Magazine Features LREI Protesters

LREI students featured in New York Magazine’s annual “Reasons to Love New York ” 12th edition, 2016: No. 2 | Because Even Our Protesters Are Precocious. Read the full article here.

2016

Gloria Steinem Visits Feminism Class

Gloria Steinem, feminist journalist and social political activist, visited Ileana Jiménez’ Feminism class.

2016

The Laramie Project + Moisés Kaufman Lecture

LREI’s production of The Laramie Project premiered during election week of November 2016 – a fractious and memorable moment in political history, when hate speech was again on the rise. The students who participated in the play hosted an audience talkback..Read More

2016
LREI Students Protest Constitution Pipeline

LREI Students Protest Constitution Pipeline

LREI students travel to Albany to protest the Constitution Pipeline.

2017
Parents at LREI

Parents at LREI

From LREI’s Instagram on October 6, 2017, in response to Hurricane Maria and the Puebla earthquake: LREI Community delivers relief ! Today, we sorted and separated enough product to fill a moving truck. Everything has been divided equally and is now..Read More

2017
LREI at Women’s March

LREI at Women’s March

LREI students and teachers participated in the Women’s March, a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. It was prompted by the fact that several of Trump’s statements were considered by many..Read More

2017

Transgender and Non-Binary Inclusion Assembly

LREI’s first Transgender and Non-Binary Inclusion Assembly

2017
Facing Whiteness

Facing Whiteness

Filmmaker and educator Whitney Dow spoke at LREI as part of the 2017 ideas Speaker Series. His project “Facing Whiteness” examines how Americans who identify as “white,” or “partially white,” process their ethnicity, and pair it with secondary quantitative data..Read More

2017
Politics in the Schoolhouse

Politics in the Schoolhouse

LREI Director Phil Kassen publishes “Politics in the Schoolhouse,” an article about the importance of discussing politics in the classroom. We do not teach about politics for politics’ sake. We do not teach through conflict for conflict’s sake. We do..Read More

2018

National School Walkout Against Gun Violence

Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the U.S., including LREI students from all three divisions. The younger students stood in with signs outside of the Sixth Avenue building while high school students joined crowds of protesters in Washington Square Park...Read More

2018
All-School Read of I AM JAZZ

All-School Read of I AM JAZZ

In 2018, LREI participated in the first annual all-school read of the book I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings. This book, as well as several other books on the topics of gender and identity, have played an important role in..Read More

2018
Fourth Grade Play

Fourth Grade Play

Each year, the fourth grade writes and performs a play centered around their social studies curriculum, which is typically focused on contemporary immigration, historical immigration, civil rights, current events, and social justice. These topics are never fully predetermined – students’..Read More

2019
Earth Day Beach Cleanup

Earth Day Beach Cleanup

Sustainable LREI sponsors an annual beach cleanup at Rockaway Beach. In 2018, they collected over 200 lbs of trash.

2019
The Commons Project

The Commons Project

The Commons Project was initiated as a framework for approaching service learning, and civic and community engagement. The school  choose to interpret the idea of the “commons” broadly in examining our role as citizens of our school community and of the larger world as..Read More

2019

Silent March for Climate Change

The Fours didn’t want to be left out of the climate change movement. They rallied in the hallways of Sixth Avenue, visiting classrooms and proudly displaying signs to build awareness through their own “Silent March for Climate Change”.

2019
STEM in South Africa

STEM in South Africa

Ellana Lawrence ’18 travels to South Africa with a group that seeks to train and inspire a new generation of ethically minded STEM workers.

2019
Service Learning in the Deepest Sense – 11th Grade Trip

Service Learning in the Deepest Sense – 11th Grade Trip

One practice that is grounded in our progressive principles is the field trip, an approach to learning that was pioneered at LREI. Through the trip, we seek to take learning out into the world and to then bring the world..Read More

2020
The Democracy  Project

The Democracy Project

LREI launches a collective, school-wide effort called The Democracy Project to uphold this country’s core democratic values. The Democracy Project is a student-led initiative to help the LREI student community become more knowledgeable on and involved in the democratic process,..Read More

2020

The rights of those who differ from ourselves

Fourteen students from the high school ‘Exile and Immigration’ class came together in conversation with four of New Sanctuary Coalition’s community members – three friends recently released from detention and a family member. This series, “Finding Light: Sharing Experiences of..Read More

2021

100 Acts of Service

In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of LREI, we are cataloging 100 Acts of Service. Click here to see the photos. Each of these opportunities will incorporate a service-learning component. The service-learning component frames and contextualizes the service opportunity through..Read More

2021
Vision Zero

Vision Zero

Zane Walker ‘22, co-leader of the Vision Zero Youth Council, a student-led group that works with local schools, organizations, and elected officials in the fight for street safety, publishes an Op-Ed in The Daily News about the urgent need to..Read More

2021
Senior Project + Service Learning

Senior Project + Service Learning

Beginning spring 2022, all Senior Projects will be required to include a service component. The Senior Project is the culmination of each student’s LREI career. The Senior Project takes the values and academics of LREI and allows students to explore these..Read More

2022
Romance and Adventure of the World

Romance and Adventure of the World

What better way to look ahead to the new year than seeing the first graders help the NYC Parks Department plant bulbs in the newly renovated Little Red Square? We’ve been told that these tulips, donated by the Washington Square..Read More

2022
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Sixth graders begin their chemistry studies by learning how to use the tools of chemists as well as proper measuring techniques to ensure precision in their experiments. Through this lab, students discover the possible sources of error that can affect..Read More

2022

Agents of Change

For 100 years, serving as agents of change in the community has been a core value of LREI. For our Centennial, we invite you to join us in continuing this special tradition and recommitting to 100 more years of service..Read More

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