MANHATTAN NY 10009 Map
Extended PK hours offered: Contact program about extended hours.
At the Earth School, children grow vegetables for the cafeteria on a rooftop garden and farm, tend to a fig tree in the yard, and learn to compost scraps and recycle. Through hands-on arts and science projects, they learn to be good citizens and stewards of the planet.
Parents bring their children to the classroom each morning and are welcome throughout the day. On our visit, the Parents Association room was buzzing: three dads and several moms put together folders for a prospective parent tour, planned the school auction and carried in risers for a graduation ceremony. Parents may attend weekly Town Hall meetings and chat with one another at “coffee Fridays.”
Abbe Futterman, a science teacher who has been at the school since its founding in 1992, became principal in 2014. On our visit, we were impressed by the quality of teaching and the high level of engagement of the students. The school devised its own discipline code, taking into account social-emotional needs, and was given a “Respect for All” award from the city in 2016 for offering a safe and supportive environment.
Most classes mix children of different ages: Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten are grouped together, as are 1st-2nd and 4th-5th grades. Only 3rd grade is a stand-alone year. Teachers say they get to know children well because they have them for two years. And students feel comfortable in the room, making for a smooth transition. The grouping also means older children get the chance to be “elders” and may help younger ones, the principal said. Many of the classrooms have at least two teachers. Older children are separated by grade for math.
Social studies projects may last an entire year, such as the 4th-5th grade study of immigration. Children visited Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum and Museo del Barrio to learn about immigration movements in the past as well as today’s migrants from war-torn countries such as Syria. Children were asked to zero in on individual immigrant stories, and to tell a person’s story with a drawing, poem or map.
Many art projects incorporate science, social studies and even math. A detailed mural and timeline about the lead in the water in Flint, Michigan took up much of a corridor. In another project, 1st- and 2nd-graders took field trips around the city, interviewed community workers and made models of landmarks from cardboard and papier mâché.
Classrooms are large, full of light and plants. There’s a full-time cooking teacher and a room dedicated to cooking—a great hands-on way to learn math. The smell of gingerbread baking filled the corridors on our visit.
The huge gymnasium is shared with the other two schools in the building; parents pay for the “coaches” because there isn’t a budget for a physical education teacher. The coaches focus on gender inclusion and body image as well as sports. Pre-k students go regularly to nearby Tomkins Square Park for recess and play.
The Earth School has long had a mix of children of different income levels and races, and the school community is determined to maintain that even as the neighborhood gentrifies, Futterman said. “A school down the block shouldn’t be all black and brown kids while we’re a pretty good mix,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure that there is access for all.” In 2015, the city allowed the Earth School to set aside 45 percent of its seats to students learning to speak English and those who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The Earth School staff and parents have been in the forefront of the movement to opt out of state tests for 3rd- to 5th-graders. In 2015, more than half of the students did not take the state exams. “Most people opt out because they are against what standardized tests do for education as a whole,” said Futterman. There is minimal prep for the exams. “We feel kids are well-prepared because we teach the material that is being tested,” she said.
The school’s small size is an asset, because everyone knows everyone, but also a drawback, because fewer pupils means a smaller budget. The principal is the only administrator and there are no staff developers or coaches. Both classroom teachers and the principal said they would welcome more support.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is at least one ICT classroom on most grades with two teachers. Small group support is offered to all students.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery, District 1. Preference to siblings. There is sometimes space for out-of-district students in the upper grades, although not in pre-k or kindergarten. Forty percent of kindergarten seats are set aside for children with limited English proficiency or those who qualify for free or reduced lunch. (Pamela Wheaton, March 2016)
At a glance
Number of Students 340
Average Daily Attendance 94%
Safety & vibe
How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?100% 81% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average kindergarten classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average fifth grade classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?94% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students are chronically absent?20% 23% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam
Percent of 3rd, 4th & 5th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam
Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam
Does the school encourage family involvement?
How many parents say they were invited to an event at the school at least 3 times in the last school year?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Do parents like the school?
How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Special ed & ELL
How well does this school serve students with disabilities?
This school does not offer self-contained classes.
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:NA 8% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
This school offers team teaching (ict).
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:NA 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:NA 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:NA 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:NA 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many parents say students with disabilities are included in all activities?
How many teachers say students with special needs are educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate?
How many parents of students with ieps say this school offers a wide enough variety of services and activities for their children’s needs?