All Souls School, founded in 1965 to meet community needs, is an independent school that is governed by its own Board of Trustees, which includes past and present parents of children in the school and educational leaders in our field. It was founded to create a school that represents a diverse community, dedicated to the continued examination of those attributes that children need to thrive in a democratic society. Overarching criteria included superior leadership, excellent facilities and a diverse student body. All Souls School, then as now, serves as a training site for student teachers. From the early days the school encouraged professional staff development and maintained connections to international, national, and New York City early childhood organizations.In 1970, the Parents Association became active in organizing community-building activities such as the Children’s Carnival (now, the Festival of Friends) and Christmas Boutique (today, the Annual Benefit).
The school has evolved over time. In the mid-1970's a toddler program for two-year-olds was started. Later on, an early drop-off service and an extended day option for 4-5 year olds was added to the school program.
The school began to use problem-solving techniques as an important teaching tool. This, as well as the Project Approach, and many other educational philosophies that were built in to the teaching of young children throughout this early period was underscored after 1993 when then Director Dr. Jean Mandelbaum, Director 1981-2009, together with several Early Childhood Directors from throughout the USA, visited Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. Many of the ideas that All Souls School was already incorporating, such as documentation, inquiry-based learning and the Project Approach was reinforced by this visit. Another valuable lesson that was brought back was the importance of the aesthetic component within each school; many beautifully-arranged art materials, including natural materials set out on translucent shelves and in front of mirrors to bring in light and to inspire the children’s choices. So valuable and affecting is this aesthetic aspect of each school’s environment in Reggio Emilia that it is spoken of as “the other teacher”. More than half the staff at All Souls School has been to visit the schools of Reggio Emilia and have participated in workshops that are inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.