Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS)
BROOKLYN NY 11215 Map
Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS)
The Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS) was founded in 2013 by community members and parents seeking a middle school which would emphasize science and math and use hands-on outdoor activities to help students understand environmental and scientific issues.
Sixth-graders focus on improving the environment at home and school. We saw students writing letters to their parents to persuade them to do right by the environment. Seventh-graders branch out to New York City and do a study of the nearby Gowanus Canal; and in 8th, they investigate national reform on climate change.
In its first year, BUGS enrolled 130 6th-graders in the Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School building and expects to have about 330 students at full growth in 2015. Many classes have two teachers which allows for more targeted instruction and assignments for students who enter the school at a wide variety of levels. With students coming from various parts of Brooklyn from "so many different schools and backgrounds" it has been a challenge, said school founder and former special education teacher Miriam Nunberg, "to learn how to blend kids and get them to respect one another."
The school practices a progressive approach to discipline, Nunberg said, with suspensions as a last resort. Two 15-minute periods each day are for "quiet time," where students learn meditation led by two fulltime meditation coaches who came through a grant from the David Lynch Foundation. "We give students tools to prevent behavior problems," she said.
"We go into small groups in our classes," one student told Insideschools. It's helpful, she said, because "some kids are advanced and some kids who might be stuck can get an explanation from the teacher." Students also attend advisory sessions of 10 to 15 students where both academic and socio-emotional issues are discussed.
The school is across the street from Greenwood Cemetery and just a few blocks away from Prospect Park, where students go for outdoor classes. The Greenwood Historical Society donated space for a garden on their grounds and opened up their archives for students to explore in social studies lessons. Children go out to the big schoolyard for recess once or twice a day, even in cold weather.
Students with citizenship grades of 90 percent or above land on the Principal's List, a "major prestige," said Principal Linda Rosenbury. Perks for good grades and citizenship may include an ice skating trip or a behind the scenes tour of the American Museum of Natural History.
Community organizations such as the Edible School Yard and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy work with students to build a garden, learn about composting and recycling systems and sustainable technology. The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education works with staff to develop the curriculum. The school received a State Stimulus Fund grant to purchase iPads and Vernier technology to conduct science experiments, fieldwork and classroom activities.
BUGS is an independent charter school and is not affiliated with any charter network. Rosenbury was most recently principal of CIS 22, a large middle school in the Bronx, and formerly a teacher at a popular District 15 elementary school, The Children's School. The two co-founders, Nunberg and Susan Tenner, an education consultant and administrator, are District 15 parents.
The school day runs from 8 am to 4 pm, and the school year is 10 days longer than the typical public school. The extra time is used for field studies and "lots of hands-on stuff," the principal said — things like a trip to the Highline in Manhattan to learn about gardening. A six–day orientation in August allows the school to assess students to help determine class placement.
Due to declining enrollment, Bishop Ford High School, the school that shares a building with BUGS, is set to close in June 2014.
Special Education: Twenty percent of the students receive some special services. There is one Integrated Co-Teaching class that mixes special needs and general education students. BUGS worked with the Cook Center and the Special Education Collaborative at the New York City Charter School Center to develop its special education program, Nunberg said, and to train teachers. The goal is to "fully integrate the kids," she said.
Admission: Lottery with District 15 priority. The school takes in 100 students each year and attracts students from throughout the district and beyond. See the website for more information. (Pamela Wheaton, March 2014)
At a glance
Number of Students 288
Average Daily Attendance 96%
INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: NA 2.59 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Safety & vibe
DO STUDENTS LIKE THE SCHOOL?
How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students say this school offers enough programs to keep them interested?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE KIDS NICE?
How many students complain about bullying?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students say students at their school respect one another?44% 49% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?69% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?86% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average english classNA 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students are chronically absent?NA 23% CITYWIDE AVERAGE