School Highlight: South End Pine Village Preschool

As you may have learned from reading our various school highlights these past few months on the blog, each of our 10 Pine Village locations have their own unique community feel and make up a welcoming “home away from home” for our staff, teachers, families and children. We are so proud of each and every one of our schools! Our South End school was the first one which was fully designed and built by Pine Village which means we took time and thought to create the space it is today! The space is filled with natural light with an open, airy feel. Located at 700 Harrison Ave., it is four blocks down from Boston Medical Center. Read on to learn more from our South End Director, Cynthia Henriquez:

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Cynthia Henriquez, I am originally from Cuidad Obregon in Mexico. I’ve called Boston my home since 1998 and I have been with Pine Village since 2011. Like most in this professional field, I am passionate about early education and the importance of high-quality education for our young children. I first started with Pine Village as a teacher, working with toddlers and preschoolers in the Kendall Square location and eventually moved on to become the Director here in the South End Location in 2017.   

Being Director here at Pine Village is a very rewarding opportunity to be able to work with so many great teachers and children who come to the school every day and consider the school their second home. Working with children is a very special job and they fill my day with joy every day. I have never wanted to work anywhere else and feel very fortunate to have been able to do so for all these years. I look forward every year to that start of our new school year!

What makes the South End school location special?

The South End Pine Village school is very special, not only because many of the families enrolled are from within the community, but also for its centric location and diverse restaurants, library, and parks. The kids love taking walks around the neighborhood and they have become small celebrities in their walks as they are greeted when they are out. The parks in the area are catered to kids and designed for many age groups, making them more fun for them to enjoy. They are clean and provide a secure environment for the children to enjoy. In fact, many are so beautiful that there have been a number of movies filmed nearby.      

Tell us a little bit about a typical day at Pine Village South End!

A typical day in the life of a Pine Village student is filled with many activities, starting with our morning tradition of healthy fruit snack, what we call as our “friendship fruit”. They we proceed to start the different activities for their day, which can be arts and craft, story time, music, dancing, or doing a science activity.  A day at Pine Village is filled with fun mixed in with a lot of learning. 

What are the kids favorite activities in class?

The kids really enjoy arts and craft activities. This is the time when they are free to express themselves with painting, cutting, and using their creative minds to translate into art. Sensory activities are always a lot of fun, as they are able to express themselves by making a big mess! The bigger the mess, the more excitement it brings to them. Storytime is also a fun activity, as the kids are allowed to play characters and listen to their favorite stories.   

Every year we typically hold our Science Fair, which is a very big event, and the kids work very hard to impress not only their friends, but most importantly their family. We will also have our imagination parade throughout the community where the kids dress up in their favorite customs.   

What are some of your favorite South End Spots?

Aside from the beautiful views, there are a lot of entertainment options for people to enjoy throughout the neighborhood. Two of my favorites’ restaurants, El Toro and El Centro, are also within walking distance to the school. On more than one occasion I have bumped into some of the children and their families walking by as I have sat outside enjoying lunch on the weekends or evenings. There are so many different food options in the area and with outdoor seating, making this a very family/community environment. 

Explore the Neighborhood: Porter Square

We love our local neighborhoods so much that we decided to feature our communities in our blog, like our recent one, featuring the JP neighborhood (Read it here if you haven’t yet!). Our Porter Square school is tucked into the historic Henderson Carriage House Building at 2067 Mass Ave. Close to both Porter and Davis Squares in Cambridge, it has convenient parking and drop off options for parents and caregivers. We love our large community room space, surrounded by five bright and fun filled classrooms specially designed for each of our age groups. Today on the blog, we’re taking a look at a few of our favorite spots nearby that you and your family may enjoy!

Henry Bear’s Park:

From books to toys, there is so much to explore in this local gem. We love supporting small businesses and if you are in need of a last minute birthday present or want to do some early holiday shopping, Henry Bear’s Park is your place! More info.

Photo credit: Henry Bear’s Park

Magpie Kids:

The cutest little boutique to find kids and infant clothing and gifts, Magpie kids has so many adorable options. We love checking out their latest finds and unique products – they always have something special in their store! More info.

Photo Credit: Magpie Kids

Muckykids Art Studio

If you are looking for an art studio, Muckykids is your place! This local art studio offers flexible drop-in studio times for kids of all ages, classes for ages 18 months and up and also hosts birthday parties – we always love their creative take on art with kids! More info.

Photo Credit: Muckykids Art Studio

Gustazo Cuban Kitchen & Bar

If you haven’t already introduced your child to Cuban food, what are you waiting for? It’s always amazing to explore cultures through foods, and we love this locally inspired Cuban restaurant with so many options for everyone in your family to enjoy! More info.

Photo Credit: Gustazo Cuban Kitchen & Bar

Sugar & Spice

Another local spot to try new food – Sugar & Spice has some of the best authentic Thai food we’ve tasted locally in Somerville. They’re easy to get to and convenient and always a yummy option for takeout if you don’t have time to cook. More info.

Photo Credit: Sugar & Spice

Bagelsaurus

If you’re running late and didn’t have a chance to have breakfast before drop-off, place an online order at Bagelsaurus and pick it up on your way. Whether you need a breakfast sandwich or a bag of bagels, this is definitely the spot to go. (Not to mention the adorable logo.) Great for kids of all ages. More info.

Photo Credit: Bagelsaurus

Dickerman Playground

If you are looking for a local playground we love the Dickerman area on Craigie Street at the corner with Kimball Street. This has a children’s play structure, swings, seating and tables, water spray, lawn, bocce court, and community mural. SO much to explore!  More info.

Photo Credit: City of Somerville

Alewife Linear Park & Bike Path

If you’re looking for a local biking or walking path, check out this Somerville community park and trail. It links to the 11-mile Minuteman Bikeway, making this a busy commuter and recreation corridor. The west end of the trail starts at Russell Field, crosses Mass Ave and then leads to the Davis T station. More info.

Photo Credit: City of Cambridge

More places to add to the list? Comment below with your favorites!

School Highlight: Kendall Square Pine Village Preschool

Just a short walk from the Kendall T stop, you can find our open welcoming preschool for kids of all ages starting at 15 months! With individual classrooms, quiet spaces, along with music and movement classes, our Kendall Square preschool is bustling with activities. We love being connected to the community through our large sunny window space, as well as located nearby a wonderful playground, outdoor concerts and even an ice skating rink in the winter.

Read on to learn a bit more about what makes our Kendall Square preschool so special, from the Director, Diana Medina:

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Diana Medina, born in Dominican Republic, a part of a small island in the Caribbean where I discovered my passion and curiosity for human behavior. After having spent 2 years in medical school I understood that my place was in psychology and learning, so I initiated my learning path. I studied school psychology at the university in my country and later, with the support of my parents, I decided to expand my knowledge in that area and culminate my Master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology and Learning with a specialty in Neuropsychology in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina; a country I totally fell in love with. During and after my studies, I can say that I have dedicated all my efforts to seek and fight for the physical and emotional well-being of children.

In my country I was previously a teacher, a school consultant, a psychologist and a therapist for children with special education needs, but about 5 years ago, my husband and I decided to embark on a new adventure. We came to the United States and became parents! Carlitos changed our lives completely, he has taught me to see life from another point of view, not just as a professional in the field of the child development. I love my chaotic, beautiful mother life and am working to find a balance as a mother of a family, a professional all while being healthy and happy.

Working in Pine Village Preschool, first as a volunteer and then as a teacher and now Director at Kendall Square, I found a place that welcomed me from almost the beginning! I have learned many things here and I have found a place as a home away from home that keeps me in touch with what I love. It has given me the opportunity to grow and learn every day from the children. I want to be able to contribute as much as possible in the lives of these little ones while also absorbing great things from them.

What makes the Kendall school location special?

I think what makes Kendall special is the great community that exists here…. the children, the parents and staff always work together to achieve everything we set out to do as a community. The teachers are a great team, and the parents are always willing to help, and the atmosphere here in Kendall square is totally beautiful and full of life. We are a beautiful family. And why not to mention that walking around Kendall square is a great experience 😊

How has the school and community thrived during the pandemic?

Incredibly. This pandemic taught us and unified us much more as a community. Kendall’s community, during the time I have been here, has always been united, but now more than ever. At first, I thought that the lack of contact was going to affect our connection as a family, but I think it made us stronger. With the support of everyone, we have been able to overcome this difficult yes, but full of learning and resilience. The year came with a lot of compassion and creativity from both parents and teachers to always maintain our connection and love.

What are the kids’ favorite activities in class?

The children love the activities outside, going to the park, reading books in nature, activities such as camping and big creations of art. They have a great time doing camping houses outside or exploring nature! For their favorite activities, the messier the better…. muddy with paint their bodies, shaving cream or play with water….they love the exploration of textures and if we adding music doubles the fun!