P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School
BROOKLYN NY 11231 Map
P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School
Brooklyn New School is a joyful, time-tested school with a diverse student body, strong leadership and seasoned teachers. Founded in 1987 by a committee of parents and teachers, it remains true to its vision as “a child-centered school” that fosters artistic, project-based learning. The majority of the teachers have over 10 years experience and almost 40 percent have taught at least 15 years – and they still radiate enthusiasm. In recent years the math program has deepened and the school has earned kudos for its sustainability efforts.
At BNS a sense of belonging is actively supported. Children with special needs participate in field trips and in project work with general education students whenever it can be safely managed. Tolerance is promoted through events like “Mix it Up” day where children sit with kids they don’t know at lunch and take a survey about areas of division (playdates is a one such area, according to the poll). The principal gives teachers a lot of autonomy but they all share a strong progressive vision. The staff meets with preK families the summer before school begins to build up a sense of trust.
Social Studies and Science are the heart and soul of BNS and everything stems from there. There is continuity across the grades, with an occasional detour depending on the interests of the students, like the study of pigeons, that segued into an examination of other kinds of birds (and dinosaurs) culminating in a focus on wind. “We used bubbles and the wind blew them right out!” said a boy. PreK and Kindergarten students learn science, math and vocabulary through cooking projects and block building. Second graders visit and build bridges, 3rd graders explore China and Africa, 4th graders delve into Old New York by writing long historical fiction books and 5th graders end the year with an age-sensitive study of the Holocaust. Every class gets Spanish once a week. Two math coaches have strengthened the math program by fine-tuning instruction based on assessments and by modeling instruction in the classroom. As for literacy, most teachers use fun-to-read books and teach some phonics, spelling and cursive. Three literacy coaches are available to fill in the gaps as needed.
Unusually, the school has a full-time Sustainability Coordinator who oversees recycling and composting and has transformed the area around the school with raised plant beds. Another strength, thanks to creative budgeting, is an in-house Technology Expert and an Intervention Team, comprised of five literacy and math coaches, some part-time, who work with small groups on skills. Class size was raised to thirty in some of the upper grades to help with this funding.
Asphalt play yards, a large grassy field, a small playground and climbing equipment surround the school. Children go out every day unless it’s 20 degrees below zero or raining hard. On bad weather days, students may choose to stay in. Every class has more than one adult, making flexible supervision possible. Grades 2-5 have art classes three times a week for half a year, alternating with music the other half, so they can go deeply into a project. Many field trips are related to units of study. On the day of our visit Kindergartners were heading to Pier 6 and 2nd graders to “Top of the Rock,” the observation deck at Rockefeller Center.
BNS appears to have a harmonious relationship with MS 448 Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies, with whom they share the building. Big kids work with little kids; high school students help out with composting or listen to children read or supervise their woodworking projects. Eleventh grade Physics students observed the little kids at play before designing mock playgrounds for a class project of their own.
If students are a little chattier and more active at BNS than at other schools, it doesn’t seem to phase teachers or administrators, who believe movement and talk are an integral part of learning.
Special Education: On every grade there are classes that mix special and general education students in one room with two teachers, one trained in special education. Two specially trained teachers work in the classrooms or pull small groups out for quiet, concentrated sessions. There is a designated Occupational and Physical Therapy room and other services on-site, including Speech and Guidance.
Admissions: Brooklyn residents. Lottery only. Siblings of current students will be admitted if there is a spot. School tours begin in December. There are about 90 general education spots and10 special education spots in Kindergarten. (Lydie Raschka, May 2011).