De Blasio Promotes Pre-K Sign Up In Visit With Youngsters

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File photo: Mayor de Blasio visits Pre-K youngsters earlier this year

[City Hall]

Pool Reporting:

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and City Councilman Andy Cohen walked into a pre-K classroom at the Riverside Neighborhood House to meet with students who were drawing pictures and working with indoor plants in plastic cups they are growing.

Teacher Anne Marie Leary goaded a 4-year-old girl named MacKenzie into talking about her plant with the mayor: "Do you want to tell him what you did?" (This was after de Blasio asked her her name and she told him."

De Blasio sat next to MacKenzie and asked her what she was making.

MacKenzie replied: "An observation of my plant."

(She was drawing a picture next to a plastic cup of soil and a small plant that evidently is 10 inches, according to MacKenzie. Leary s seemed to substantiate the height claim.)

De Blasio asked: "An observation of?"

MacKenzie repeated: "My plant."

Leary asked MacKenzie: "What happened to the plant during our spring break? It got much bigger right?"

De Blasio, visibly impressed, pointed out her vocabulary to the pool reporters: "Once again, unscripted, here's MacKenzie who says 'this is an observation of her plant.'"

He pointed out other big words kids have said to him during his UPK visits, such as "metamorphosis."

He added: "We have a continuity here. An observation of my plant."

Then he asked her her age and she said 4.

He told her: "You are very smart at 4 years old; you know that? Great."

Then he spoke to a girl named Daniela about her drawing of her plant, which is allegedly 8 inches.

De Blasio said: "You are counting!"

The teacher tried to get one of the kids to tell the mayor what kind of plants they were making by calling out "Does anybody remember, what did we plant?" Turns out they are onion plants.

The teacher and kids talked about how it "takes a while for plants to grow."

A few minutes later Ruben Diaz asked, "What makes it grow? Water?"

After a few seconds of awestruck conversation about plants de Blasio twice asked: "Does the plant like sunshine?"

Then he spoke to the teacher. He asked her her name; she said Annie, though CapNY was told her name was Ann.

He said: "You're doing good work."

She thanked him and said this is her eighth year teaching UPK at this school.

De Blasio: "Do you love it?"

Leary: "I do love it."

De Blasio: "Why do you love it?"

Leary: "The freedom of what we're able to do with the children. … Just go with their interests and take it from there. And every day is different and happy. I dance and sing and read stories. It's great."

She said most days start on the rug, sitting in circle with conversations and questions.

"They love school; they're happy to be here. They're happy to talk to us. You know, in the beginning you'll have a  couple who aren't ready yet. But by now everybody's happy and talking and involved."

Then Leary told a student they'd measure the height of that student's plant with a ruler. (I was unable to independently verify.)

At this point, a woman came to pick up two kids, including 4-year-old Jack. The woman encouraged Jack to tell the mayor he is doing a great job. Jack obliged and delivered the message.

Possibly joking, the mayor said, "You're my new favorite citizen."

He also said, "Can I get that in writing?" as the boy walked out.

Then he turned to Ruben Diaz and asked if he saw the Bronx shout-out on Google hangout. Diaz affirmed he did, in fact see it and de Blasio demonstrated again, by crossing his forearms in front of his chest.

Then a boy named Lucas approached the mayor with several containers of clay, which he called a smoothie.

Lucas was wearing a checkered shirt with a tie, which impressed de Blasio, who exclaimed, "He is GQ!"

Leary then encouraged MacKenzie to show the mayor her pink dress, which she later did.

A discussion over smoothies ensued, during which MacKenzie said she doesn't like smoothies because they contain blueberries and strawberries, which do not appeal to her.

De Blasio referred to the multi-colored "smoothie" as "psychedelic" and joked, "It's getting crazier here."

At about this time, roughly 6 1/2 minutes into the visit, the pool reporters were asked to leave and de Blasio then held a press conference outside the pre-K center.

 

Pool reporter Goldenberg is Senior Reporter, Capital New York

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