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Learning Through Play

At UCNS, we ask children to learn by doing what young children do best – play! UCNS is a play-based, parent cooperative preschool located in Ithaca, NY. At UCNS, all children are loved and respected, and all aspects of their development—social, emotional, physical, cognitive—are nurtured. For over 45 years, UCNS has been a place that is truly focused on enriching the lives of children and families.

Children ages 3 to 5 years old are welcome to enroll UCNS and may enroll for 2, 3, or 5 mornings a week. UCNS began as a parent cooperative nursery school on the Cornell campus in the early 1970’s and has grown to serve both the needs of the Cornell community and the wider community in Ithaca. We participate as a Universal Pre-K Community Partner with the Ithaca City School district.

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.”
— Henri Matisse, French painter, 1869-1954

Two girls play at sensory table filled with sand.Each day at UCNS, children explore art, science, dramatic play, blocks, books, storytelling, manipulatives, and more, using a wide variety of materials, including natural and recycled objects. The classroom is constantly evolving to meet the children’s changing needs as they unfold over the school year. Teachers provide leadership as they model developmentally appropriate practice, curriculum, and their skilled, loving support of the children. Together, parents and teachers form a close community, committed to fostering healthy growth and development in each child.

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Contact Us

Phone: 607-266-9680

At UCNS, we feel that the best way for families to learn about the nursery school program is to spend some time playing with us! To schedule a Come & Play Day or if you have other questions about enrollment and the program at UCNS, please email the Registrar at, call our school office at 607-266-9680, or fill out our Contact Us form.

Two boys hide behind hollow block structure