The Studio School

History of the School

The Studio School opened in 1971, in the heart of Greenwich Village, as a one-room schoolhouse with 25 students, ages 4-12, with the knowledge that learning results naturally from a child’s own inner drive to find out about the world.
The original Studio School entranceHistory of The Studio School

Watch The Happening

Celebrating 50 years of Studio


Our founders, Dolores and Robert Welber, believed that there’s a strong interplay of the emotions and the intellect in learning. They visualized a school that would incorporate this premise and have a strong developmental point of view, where a child’s intellectual, emotional, physical, and social growth would be thoroughly addressed. From this original vision, “The Studio on Eleventh Street” was born.

In fact, the name “Studio” is as apt for the school today as it was originally, over half a century ago. Evoking an artist’s workshop, it signifies a place where freedom to grapple with important issues of thought, feeling, and ideas is guided into meaningful experiences and enduring expression—a place where children learn to make effective choices and active contributions while growing toward self-fulfillment and a positive role in the world, and finally, a place where the concept that we all learn from one another is kept in mind each day.

Within Studio’s classrooms, the educational mission evolved to demonstrate what children needed to experience so that they would fully evolve as students and humans: integrating both facts and feelings, intellect and emotions.

The tenets of the school were:

  • Everyone can learn from everyone.
  • There is no learning without feelings.
  • A school is for parents, too.
  • You are ultimately responsible for your own education.

In 1975, Janet C. Rotter, who later graduated from Bank Street College of Education, joined Studio as a volunteer and went on to teach all age levels before becoming Head of School in 1984. Early in her tenure, Ms. Rotter worked together with the Welbers to institute many new ideas at Studio, including a program for families and their children from birth through four years old, a mother-infant group, a group for fathers, and numerous workshops for teachers and parents. These groups and workshops all addressed the important processes of attachment and separation between parents/caregivers and their children. For 48 years, all of Studio has benefited from Ms. Rotter’s expertise, dynamic nature, and her deep love of our school, children, learning, and education. She developed and refined an educational philosophy and practice that is now known as the Studio School Approach, which transcends the standard curricula and is specifically designed to develop and enhance each child’s innate intelligence and creativity. It blends an understanding of child development with a working knowledge of how children learn, a student-teacher relationship that is emotionally connective, and a rich curriculum with a breadth and depth of learning.

In 1998, Ms. Rotter, a forward thinker, conceived Studio’s interdisciplinary One World curriculum, which combines the physical sciences, geography, social sciences, and history into one encompassing course of study. With Julianne Mabey, Head of Teaching and Learning, the disciplines have expanded to address technology, social justice, diversity, and sustainability.

As an outgrowth of our Mothers’ and Fathers’ Groups, Ms. Rotter created a Toddler Program for families with young children. In 2000, parents, students, and teachers all saw the need to grow the school and added grades seven and eight, thus creating a complete middle school program.

After moving to the Upper West Side in the late 1970s and leasing spaces on 79th Street and 86th Street, the School moved in 1987 to a larger facility on West 95th Street, where they leased for 20 years. Seeking a permanent home of our own, Ms. Rotter was the inspirational leader behind the capital campaign to purchase two adjoining townhouses and the visionary in the conception and renovation of these buildings.

In the fall of 2007, The Studio School joyfully opened its doors to another chapter. The successful completion of our six-story building, specifically designed to complement our approach to learning, clearly reflected the dedication and strength of our community.