MANHATTAN NY 10013 Map
Gaining acceptance to PS 150 truly means winning the lottery for some lucky downtown Manhattan parents. Located up a steep flight of stairs adjacent to an apartment complex in Tribeca, tiny PS 150 provides a stimulating learning environment. The school's small size, and super-involved parents, and vibrant arts curriculum set it apart from many large Manhattan schools.
This is a school where children learn a lot by exploring a few topics in depth. Second graders studying the farmers market visit the nearby Tribeca market, make drawings of fruits and vegetables, and create still life watercolors of the produce. They also make clay models of fruits and vegetables and eventually host their own farmers market, buying and selling produce, even as they learn math. Kindergarteners visit local bakeries, learn about different jobs, read and write about gingerbread characters and bake their own gingerbread cookies in the class oven.
Each room in the three-story brick building - an annex to a huge apartment complex - is inviting. All have a central meeting place, and cozy corners for different subject areas. Children sprawl out in hallways writing or working on projects.
The school's art room, lined with shelves of supplies, paper-mâché projects in various stages of completion, and a kiln, serves as a gathering place for monthly parent meetings with the principal. On the day of our visit, the principal, Maggie Siena fielded questions from 8-10 parents about recently issued report cards, anxiety over middle school admissions, and an introduction to new Wednesday afternoon clubs in such subjects as macrame, math, and wood-working, which are taught by teachers during the school day.
[Principal Maggie Siena left PS 150 to found a new school in 2012. The new principal is Jenny Bonnet, who spent a decade as academic director of the Special Music School on the Upper West Side, reports The Tribeca Trib.]
Down the hall, we heard clapping from the 3rd grade class that was hosting a publishing party. There were as many parents as children in the room, listening to every child read aloud a story he or she had written. A table was laden with bagels, fruit, and cookies brought in by parents. Such activities are the norm at PS 150. "I'm a firm believer that the very best test prep is a strong reading and writing program," said the principal.
There are frequent school trips and outings. Fourth graders were at Ellis Island, as part of their study of immigration; 3rd graders left after the publishing party to see a local theatre production. Students don't spend hours on homework. "You know my feelings about homework," the principal told parents. "To do homework on top of it [a long school day], if it's really stressing them out, they're just not doing it. Let's have a conversation and work it out."
Although the school's classrooms are large, bright, airy, and well-equipped, there is no school cafeteria. In a case of turning lemons into lemonade, the school's tiny kitchen has a wonderful chef and kids say they love the food. Rather than spend their lunch time in a noisy lunchroom, students have a more civilized meal, in their classrooms, eating family style, served by fellow students. Likewise, there is no gymnasium, but the outside courtyard of the apartment complex serves as a playground with balls, hula hoops, and other games brought out during lunch, recess, and gym. The music teacher doubles as a physical education teacher and brings a boombox and rhythm sticks to class. Children keep time with the rhythm sticks, or run relay races while listening to Led Zeppelin.
In the basement, a media and science room also functions as a library. There were several intriguing experiments on display, as well as turtles and snakes in tanks. Acorns collected on a class trip were germinating into little oak trees, paper-mâché planets were hanging from the ceiling, and children had been using peanut butter to make mock metamorphic rocks. Posted were samplings of the children's "fierce wonderings": "Does it hurt to die?" "Does space ever end?"
Each grade has one class of 28 students, a boon for the school staff and families who eventually know everyone at the school; not so great if students don't get along with one another and are together for six years. In fact, the school guidance counselor said that one of her main tasks was mediating between classmates. She also runs a noontime "Banana Splits" club for children of separated or divorced parents.
Admission: PS 150 is not a zoned school. Priority in admissions is given to siblings of current continuing students and students zoned for PS 234 and PS 89. There is a lottery for the remaining seats limited to students in District 2.
After school: The Manhattan Youth and Downtown Community Center runs an after school program with a chess club, a pool, rocketry, and sports.
Special education: Occupational therapy, speech therapy and other related services are offered.
English as a Second Language: Very few students need ESL classes. Those that do receive help from the special education teacher.This school is featured in New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools (Pamela Wheaton, November, 2008. Updated September 2012.)