Wagon Wheel preschool offers a glimpse of our diverse world

| April 25, 2024 | 0 Comments

PRESCHOOLERS take advantage of an outdoor art area to try some Jackson Pollock-like artwork.

Tucked away in Hancock Park is Wagon Wheel School, a gem of a preschool that has been part of the neighborhood since 1948. When owner / director Ruth Segal purchased the school at 653 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in 1977, the school consisted of one building and a simple grassy area without trees, and it had only 37 pupils.

Today, 110 2- to 5-year-old children are enrolled at the preschool, which now is comprised of four buildings, including an auditorium. Many large trees (planted by Segal herself) offer shade for students’ outdoor play in  varied areas. There is a large area for playing in the sand, a playground, space to create outdoor art and a grassy area for movement games.

Monthly themes

Each month at Wagon Wheel follows a different theme. April was “Children of the World,” which exposes children to a wide variety of cultures. Pictures from around the world adorn the walls alongside student artwork, and performers entertain while educating. “Not knowing about other nationalities brings fear. So we like to bring it here through music and dance performances,” said Segal.

OWNER / DIRECTOR Ruth Segal in front of Wagon Wheel School’s auditorium.

Growing up as a child of diplomats who moved the family from country to country, the director learned to value diversity and also stability. Many of the staff members have been at the school for more than 20 years, and Segal speaks Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic and English. The books and toys the children are offered are far from cookie-cutter. They are as varied as the children themselves.

YOUNG LEARNERS use a program called Handwriting Without Tears.

Active learning

Each classroom has materials appropriate for the growing skills and stages of the children. The school day is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (though the youngest children leave at 2 p.m.), but students are moving between activities approximately every half hour. “They go inside for story time, go outside to play, maybe go inside for a craft…” They are moving at a pace matched to their age, Segal told us.

Segal and the faculty value children’s opinions. They guide students by helping them notice their peers’ feelings, and they model behavior, rather than telling kids what to do. 

Faculty and family

The staff members at Wagon Wheel are also truly valued. Segal raised her own three kids at the school and ensures that all children of staff members attend free of charge. She also does fundraisers to raise money for staff bonuses, and paid vacations are given to all employees. 

 There is a family feel to the school that is reflected in the fact that Segal has stayed in touch with many alumni and their families. Parent participation is high at Wagon Wheel. Segal told us, “I want parents to feel empowered to be involved in their kids’ education.” The director also provides a Junior Helper Program for alumni 12 years of age. Interested alumni come for an interview and then help at the school during the summer for three hours a day. 

STUDENTS enjoy some indoor playtime.

Parent and Me

In addition to the preschool classes, Wagon Wheel offers a window into the school through its year-round Parent and Me classes. Two one-hour classes take place in the afternoons at 3:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The classes are taught by two staff members. To attend, children must be walking and accompanied by a guardian. During the classes, attendees participate in a mini school day where the children play, enjoy a snack, have circle time and do arts and crafts.

The classes aim to get children and parents accustomed to being in a preschool setting. This helps eliminate the fear that can exist when kids get ready to step into school for the first time. But it also allows families to get to know each other and to start making connections, which Segal feels is vital in a city as big as Los Angeles. 

Parent and Me classes are $50 per class, and tuition for full time preschoolers is $2,100 per month, though scholarships are available.

For more information about the school or the Parent and Me classes, visit wagonwheelschool.org.

Tags: , ,

Category: People

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *