No matter the class, Twisters Gymnastics Center's instructors always make sure to pack their lessons with a hearty dose of encouragement. They inspire students of all ages and skill levels in a 6,200-square-foot gymnasium outfitted with an array of tumbling and gymnastics equipment, from balance beams and pommel horses to colorful tumbling obstacles and a foam pit. Their introductory Mommy & Me and Mini-Gym classes help kiddies build strength and develop muscle control, and their more advanced sessions, including competitive gymnastics, nurture students' desires to test their skills against others. Each child's safety is equally important as their physical development; every instructor is certified in basic first aid and CPR, is USGF-safety certified, and is proficient in scaring away grizzly bears with nothing but a glare.
For more than 25 years, Drama Kids International has nurtured thousands of thespian students and kids simply searching for an engaging activity, instilling children with the ability to speak clearly and confidently. Classes focus on sharpening articulated speech and encouraging creative expression. Children are placed in classes according to their age group: the Lower Primary (ages 5–8) teaches kids how to deliver lines and hone social skills, the Upper Primary (ages 9–11) delves into improvisation and dramatic movement, and the DKI Acting Academy (ages 12–17) preps scene-stealers on how to audition for their dream role. Each class includes a variety of activities for kids to unleash their imagination, which develops their dramatic abilities in a fun, easy-going setting. Drama Kids instructors foster an open, comfortable acting environment. Call ahead to schedule the first class and start your child down the path of becoming one of the more notable Baldwin brothers.
Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr. was born with shortened limbs. Not one to let his challenges define him, though, he worked to achieve his doctorate and went on to serve as the disability adviser to eight US presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter. Believing in children's ability to achieve greatness despite any obstacle, he founded The Viscardi Center in 1952. For the last half-century, the center has worked to educate and empower people with disabilities by providing education from prekindergarten to high school, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, and career counseling through a network of organizations.
A member of this network, the Henry Viscardi School was founded in 1962 and today teaches 180 children who have severe physical disabilities such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. These students learn in small groups of up to nine and study all of the state-mandated subjects, including science and math. The school maintains a host of medical supports, including communication devices, and the help of nurses and social workers, to ensure the children's safety, and it offers extended educational training in the form of postgraduate skills and summer instruction.
The Theresa Alessandra Russo Foundation believes that children of all backgrounds should have an outlet for artistic expression. To that end, the foundation created the Theresa Academy of Performing Arts, or TAPA—a venue for visitors with special needs to kindle their creativity. With programs that cover art, music, and drama, TAPA boosts its students' confidence and builds an atmosphere of camaraderie. Dance and Sign sessions weave sign-language cues into interpretive movements, and singing and piano classes for all ages compose uplifting rhythms. The academy also hosts fitness workouts for teens and adults, calling on the infectious beats and choreography of Dance Trance to set bodies in motion.
Guests of every ability level are welcome to join most courses on the accessible curriculum. Tuition costs benefit further enrichment efforts and programs, the success of which has earned the foundation the title of Best Not-For-Profit on Long Island from the Long Island Press.
Queens Dance Project’s team of lifelong dancers coach students through workout-oriented dance routines. During the newly unveiled pole-dancing workshops, students build muscle tone while executing spins and tricks under dimmed studio lights. Alternatively, Zumba classes keep heart rates high by pairing hip-swiveling moves with Latin beats, and tap-dancing sessions teach students how to make it rain using just their shoes. Youngsters can also build coordination and confidence at the studio, which has an age-stratified youth program to nurture kids 2 years and older with mat work and musical instruments.
A member-supported, nonprofit organization, the Seatuck Environmental Association works to promote the conservation of Long Island's natural environment through research and educational programs. Members regularly gather with field experts on its 70-acre marshland preserve for scheduled hikes, photography classes, and meditation sessions. The trails and boardwalks that wind through the salt marshes and upland forests also lead to the Suffolk County Environmental Center, housed in a 1917 Normandy-style chateau. Members may tour the historic mansion while admiring features such as arched doorways and diamond-cut windows that allow sunlight to filter into the garret and onto the place where its original steam-powered Nintendo would have stood. The Seatuck Environmental Association also hosts regular fundraising events such as the End of Summer Barbecue and the Bats-N-Brews fundraiser, as well as an array of educational programs for all ages.