BROOKLYN NY 11215 Map
An arts-focused school with a strong sense of community, PS 295 has an involved staff and very active parents with many working artists in the mix. Teachers and parents run a weekly Farmers Market and children grow vegetables and sell produce. There is a welcoming environment for all children, including those with special needs and those learning to speak English.
PS 295 shares an 100-year-old building in South Park Slope with New Voices for Academic and Creative Arts middle school. There are small dance and drama studios and a new stage, complete with sound and lighting system. The interior is nicely painted and there is a welcoming shared library. It lacks a full-size gym and the noisy cafeteria, split in two different sections, is inconveniently located in the lobby. Students go to the nearby Armory for phys ed, or do yoga classes in the dance studio. They also swim at the YMCA. CBE Kids runs an after-school program, while parents run a fee-based program offering classes in yoga, circus, science and tennis.
Linda Mazza, a longtime teacher and reading coach, became principal in 2013. She is well-known and liked by the community and is continuing many of the initiatives begun by her predecessor, Deanna Marco, who left to start a new school in her native Staten Island. Mazza hosts monthly "Bagel Bits" morning meetings with parents, and parents are invited to visit classrooms afterwards. Some teachers, and the principal, do lunch duty and go out with the kids at recess once a week.
Math lessons occur first thing in the morning and students get plenty of hands-on work. The school uses a combination of the TERC curriculum, used in District 2, and more standard workbooks from the Go Math curriculum, offered by the city. There is an emphasis is on logic and applying math lessons to real life, the principal said. In a 5th-grade class, the teacher asked children to figure out what size turkey she should buy based on the number of guests she expected at the dinner and how much they were likely to eat. Students also had to come up with a plan for solving the problem and explaining their decision, writing up their thought process. "There's not a pre-determined answer," said the principal. "It's about: 'What is your reasoning and is it logical.'"
Teachers follow the Readers and Writers Workshop model in which students choose books at their level and share information with a partner. Parents are invited to some publishing parties to celebrate books written by the children. About half of the reading time is devoted to reading non-fiction books, to better align with Common Core standards. The school spends little time on dedicated test prep for state exams. "Good instruction is test prep," said the principal.
The arts flourish here. Students write and perform their own plays: some are actors, other directors or stagehands. All grades get music instruction, singing, learning to play the recorder, or drumming. A band and chorus meet after school. Parent grant-writing helps fund many arts initiatives, and parent artist and writers frequently volunteer. An annual silent art auction, features work by parents and their friends.
Field trips tie into the curriculum. Second-graders studying New York take a trip to Rockefeller Center and the "Top of the Rock"; 3rd-graders studying China visit Chinatown. Hands-on projects abound both in and out of the art room. Second-graders studying the Lenape Indian tribe created typical shelters; 1st-graders made and shared a delicious sweet potato dish the week before Thanksgiving.
Parents sponsor annual fund-raising events, such as a "Touch a Truck" fair and a Halloween Dance-a-thon. They also help out in the garden, working with school librarian Susan Weseen and 3rd-graders to host a weekly Farmers Market which is a lesson in science, entrepreneurship and math all in one. "It's just amazing to see the children making change," said the librarian who is also the school's wellness guru and meets with the children at least once a week.
Special education: PS 295 was one of the first schools to offer an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) class on every grade and takes particular pride in its special education program which serves nearly a quarter of the population. As of 2013 the school offers a combined kindergarten–1st-grade self-contained class; in other grades most children are mainstreamed into the ICT classes. There is adaptive phys ed for kids who need it.
English Language Learners: Seventy-five students, about 15 percent of the population, are learning English; most are Spanish-speaking from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. A few dozen Chinese-speaking students were sent to PS 295 from PS 94, an over-crowded school in Sunset Park in 2012.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. In past years, there have been some seats available for kids from outside of the zone. (Pamela Wheaton, November 2013)