Reston’s Original Preschool Celebrating 50 Years

It’s not hard to find a Reston family with ties to Lake Anne Nursery Kindergarten. LANK, as the school is called, has been around nearly as long as Reston itself, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary in a big way in 2015.

And if you have ties to the school, they want you to be a part of it.

“We’re trying to contact all of our alumni – which is a lot!” said LANK co-director Patty Marsh.

Adds co-director Marilyn O’Neill: “Yes, we’d love to know where they all are, what they’re doing, how they’re doing,”

One testament to how beloved LANK is, is how many generations of families have attended over the last 50 years.

“Reston seems to be a place kids return to, to raise their own families,” O’Neill said.

LANK was the first preschool in Reston. Founded in 1965, Reston’s founder, Robert E. Simon, gifted the land to the school expressly for the purpose. LANK first opened at Lake Anne Village Center and quickly became a cornerstone of the budding community.

In 1972, the school moved to its current location on North Shore Drive near Wiehle Avenue.

LANK is still thriving in Reston, and Marsh and O’Neill say it is in part because of the school’s general philosophy on learning, as well as the small teacher-to-student ratios.

For example, in the kindergarten classes, there are no more than 18 children, with two teachers, for a 9:1 ratio. The average public kindergarten class can be three times that.

Also unique is LANK’s “open school” environment which, although more uncommon today, was very popular when the school was founded.

The open school concept features classrooms that flow into each other with few walls and doors. Marsh says that this gives children the freedom to move within their grade level from one activity to the next and choose what they want to focus on during open play times.

“It fosters independence,” she said.

LANK features “wings” for each grade level, and welcomes students from 2 years old up through kindergarten. Parents can choose from three-, four- and five-day programs that start in either the morning or the afternoon and last just under three hours. Kindergarteners attend a full day, which runs from 8:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

The school’s philosophy is play-based learning that aims to make school a positive, enjoyable place, thereby fostering a love of learning and setting students up for success in later years, the directors say. In addition to typical preschool curriculum and activities such as circle time, counting, alphabet and reading, there are special enrichment activities and subjects such as music, movement, and even Spanish language learning.

Jacquelyn Roth, whose older son attends LANK, says those reasons are exactly why she went against her previous plan of keeping her son home until kindergarten, and chose to enroll him at LANK when he was 2 1/2.

Roth said she and her husband first learned about the school when they moved to Reston a few years ago and saw countless cars driving around with LANK magnets on them.

“My husband reminded me that we should check out that school, because it really seemed to be a local mainstay in the community,” Roth said.

More than just the curriculum, it was the structure, discipline and social skills she felt could really benefit her son, Roth said.

“At first, I thought I could teach him anything he needed to know at home, but when I saw the way he interacted with other kids, and the way he learned to listen to the teachers, I realized he could learn a lot more than just being home with me,” she said. “I’m very in favor of play-based curriculum, rather than forceful academics, for a young age. He has the rest of his life to worry about academics.”

The school is planning a large gala on April 17 at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods to celebrate the 50th anniversary. There will also be a LANK Fun Run in early May.

Part of the preparation for the gala is digging up tons of historic photos of the school over the decades and digitizing them, and preparing to display them at the gala. The school is looking for “historians” interested in helping with that project. Those interested can contact [email protected] for more information.

For more information on LANK, visit www.lankschool.com

Disclosure: LANK is a Reston Now advertiser

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