About CWS

The Children’s Workshop School, founded in 1993, is a progressive public elementary school located on the East Village of Manhattan. CWS strives for students to be open-minded and compassionate; to gain a sense of themselves and others; and to understand and appreciate the diversity of the community. Children are guided and supported to fulfill their creative, physical, emotional, social, and intellectual potential. Our goal is for our children to recognize that they have the power and resources to effect change. It is our hope that children will grow to be responsible, critical, and caring members of a pluralistic society.


The Children’s Workshop School is considered to be one of the “best-kept secrets in New York.” An alternative “choice” public school for children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, it was formed by Maria Velez-Clarke and Jean Finnerty who wanted to give families in the Lower East Side access to a progressive, smaller, child-centered public school. The two educators had worked together at Central Park East and shared a vision of dynamic, and progressive education.


Maria Velez-Clarke became Principal of the Children’s Workshop School and her consistent vision, profound and insightful knowledge of children, and experience as an educator continue to inform and guide CWS as it grows and evolves. Jean Finnerty lived in Finland for many years, teaching at the Kesamaki School, but has now returned. While apart, the two educators spent years sharing news and ideas, brainstorming about how their students can form cross-cultural bonds.


CWS opened its doors in September 1993. It began at the Goldman Y, on 14th Street and 1st Avenue, eventually moving into the under-utilized Anna Howard Shaw building at 610 East 12th Street. This challenging beginning and transition did not discourage families who chose to be pioneers in the establishment and development of our school, which has grown from those first 80 students and their families to the 265+ students and their families we have today.


The creation of CWS, along with its sister schools (Neighborhood School, East Village Community School, Earth School and Tompkins Square Middle School) sparked interest from families throughout New York City and has contributed to their return to District 1. This is evidenced by our growing waiting lists, the number of families who have visited our schools as part of the choice process, and the increase in our student population every year. Our growth, however, has not hindered our commitment to maintaining a small progressive school, whose students possess a full range of racial, linguistic, and cultural heritages; income levels, and learning abilities. The population and staff of the school is growing, and because of strong parental involvement, we have been able to add many enrichment programs including music, dance, yoga and movement classes school-wide, a library program in our Library and Media Center, Third Street Music School classes, and an extensive afterschool clubs program.

Partnerships & Projects:

We continue to enjoy a productive partnership with Manhattan Country School, including a weeklong Farm Program for our 4th graders and The Living the Dream Award, a joint project between both school’s 5th graders. Our fifth grade class also goes to Washington D.C. every spring to observe and participate in the political process.

Fun Events:

In December, we have a community craft fair, and a book fair to raise funds to maintain our beautiful library and its 10,000 volume collection.
Every spring, our school community hosts two celebrations; an Arts & Science Fair in May for the children and community, and our primary fundraising event Schoolapalooza; a food, entertainment, art and silent auction extravaganza for the parents and friends of the school. Lisa Lisa of Cult Jam fame always joins Schoolapalooza and rocks the house.


Honoring the Dream
Every January, we celebrate the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr with an all-school concert that reaffirms our hope for a just and peaceful world. Teachers work with the students to develop class performances and every child has the opportunity to be a part of the presentation. We have the Honoring the Dream Celebration off-site to accommodate our growing CWS community. It is a moving and exhilarating experience and is open to the public.


Raise Your Voice” Written by 2013 5th Grade Class from Children’s Workshop School on Vimeo.