The Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds.” It is this mantra that is at the heart of Harmony Early Learning Center, a Wantagh-based school serving children aged six-weeks through pre-kindergarten that opened in its new location in April 2021.
It’s a philosophy owner/director Allison Ulin has fully embraced, ever since she founded the original business on Center Lane in Levittown back in 2013.
“I had some different experiences with different age groups,” she recalled. “I ended up teaching kindergarten for a few years and then I ended up teaching pre-K and pre-school at some other daycare centers. I was all over the place. I was in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. I just woke up one day and decided to open up my own daycare. I realized early on that I really enjoy early childhood. From birth to age eight or nine [is a time frame] I love because they are still able to be formed. You’re laying the foundation for their future. You are their first learning experience that they’re getting. We’re teaching them social and emotional skills. We’re talking about regulating their feelings, problem-solving on their own and thinking through how to solve different issues with their friends, which is a big part of our program. We focus on social and emotional just as we do academic.”
The cultivation of soft skills is a crucial component for these young and developing minds is a crucial element, particularly in the face of isolation created by a global pandemic and the nature of omni-present social media and technology. It’s a developmental society overlooks at its own risk if the recent shootings by young men in their late teens in both Buffalo and Uvalde, TX is any indication. The Creative Curriculum Ulin and Harmony Early Learning Center espouses is based on an educational fluidity that runs contrary to the programs many other daycares employ.
“We want our students to feel like this is an extension of their home,” Ulin explained. “Even the way we designed it—there are hardwood floors, everything is in neutral colors, very calming and very clean. We do a play-based approach, whereas other daycares might do more of sitting down and doing work sheets based on a routine structure. We are very much learning through play and hands-on activities. We use the Creative Curriculum with all our classes, even infants. We actually do a curriculum with them that is really exploring through play and learning things that interest the students and have the teachers really do open-ended projects.”
The 26-member strong staff caters of 123 children representing upwards of 100 families from around the community, nearly three times the 45 students the school was serving back in Levittown. With demand so high and capacity at a max, Harmony Early Learning Center caught the attention of Senator Kevin Thomas, who presented Ulin and her staff with a New York State Empire Business Award. This honor recognizes organizations that are leaders in their industry, use innovative methods and increase jobs, economic growth and make significant contributions to their communities. In a layout that took four years to construct, Harmony checks all those boxes thanks to a 10,000 square-foot site that features playgrounds specifically designed for toddlers and infants, two infant rooms, two toddler rooms, two preschool rooms, one Pre-K room and one-school age room.
It’s all very humbling for Ulin, a mother of three small children she’s raising with her husband John, who is the campus pastor at Massapequa’s Centerpoint Church.
“My staff and I really enjoy serving the parents in our community—there’s a real need there,” she said. “We like being able to fill that need for them and look forward to many years of serving the community at this location.”
Visit www.harmonyearlylearning.com to learn more about the Harmony Early Learning Center.