About us


Tompkins Then and Now

Tompkins Hall originated as an intimate, part-time, parent cooperative nursery in the 1930's, conceived of by faculty members of Columbia University.  We were a play based program then, and have stayed true to that as our foundation.  The school day moves at a child's pace, as their expressions and curiosities are our focus. 

Tompkins Hall reflected the needs of young families then and now, and so, we have expanded in several ways.  We are now a school for children as young as three months of age through children turning 5 years of age. We have a 10 month school year and 6 week summer program. Though our composition has changed, we have remained true to our foundation. We are dedicated to providing children an environment that respects them implicitly, prioritizes their perspectives and invites them to explore the world. 


Our school's philosophy draw on three important figures: John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky and John Bowlby. These three people inform us in our beliefs that: all learning is embedded in social interactions; higher order thinking grows from social learning; the teachers' role is to provide achievable challenges for students, and that relationship is both the bedrock and umbrella of our school. We are developmentalists. We design a growing environment for the specific children in our classrooms. Teachers support children’s personal development within the context of the group's evolution. Creative ideas, problem-solving, and negotiating social relationships are the cornerstones of success in a complex and changing world. Our school creates a a home for children’s ideas and explorations in a developmentally sensitive blending of social interactions, open-ended materials, and extended play times that allow for deep inquiry. Curriculum evolves each year as we link the unique interests of each group of children with the developmental goals teachers keep in mind for each child. Science, music, movement, art, and literacy are embedded in all classrooms.