First Program

Welcome to the First Program of the Dalton School! The faculty and staff of Little Dalton are delighted to help children and their families transition from their preschool years to our wonderful community. We hope that this introduction marks only the beginning of your exploration of what First Program offers.
Adjoining townhouses on East 91st Street comprise the safe and supportive background to our remarkably diverse community, which takes young children from their first days at school, through four years of academic and social experiences, to their emergence as members of Dalton’s Middle School. Each child is assigned to a House, or homeroom. There, the House Advisor (the senior teacher) and the Associate Teacher are the child’s primary advocates as they guide them in a challenging and creative core curriculum of math, language arts and social studies. In addition, children meet regularly with specialist teachers to explore science, music, art, physical education, library and technology. They also take advantage of special projects, including archaeological digs and service learning projects. Our two outdoor play spaces, science labs, art studios, music rooms and gymnasium support this program. Though Houses are comprised by grade, students enjoy the experience of being part of a community that includes children of every age. The unifying element of all of this activity is Dalton’s commitment to the development of well-rounded and happy children, who learn collaboratively and on their own. The faculty takes care to craft lessons to help each child explore his or her full potential – academic, social and emotional. A third grader recently said at the year-end ceremony that her time at First Program was filled with “loving, laughing and learning.”
The First Program is the beginning of the journey through this remarkable progressive school, which was founded more than ninety years ago. In keeping with Dalton’s philosophy and mission, we seek to be a school community that reflects the greater community of the metropolitan area. We are, therefore, intentionally diverse and inclusive – in our racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious, and geographic make up; and in the variety of family structures that we welcome. 

Through experiential activities, students acquire skills, deepen their understanding and think creatively. We celebrate each child's strengths, cultural background and individual needs. With the specific developmental needs of each age group in mind, our program incorporates the basic elements of the Dalton Plan: House, Assignment and Lab. Teachers offer instruction but also encourage children to ask questions and to be active participants in their own learning. Lessons are structured to give full reign to every child’s creativity and desire to participate fully in the educational process. As adults, we seek to learn from their exceptional range of abilities and backgrounds almost as much as we know they learn from us. In the forefront of this effort is a dedicated and experienced group of teachers and specialists, who feel fortunate, as I do, to be a part of a community that embraces the vision of Dalton’s founder, Helen Parkhurst, so completely.

Nora J. Elish
First Program Director