P.S. 321 William Penn
BROOKLYN NY 11215 Map
P.S. 321 William Penn
PS 321, long regarded as one of the finest elementary schools in the city, is known for its strong writing program. Classrooms are bright and stimulating. As a popular school filled with students well beyond its capacity, however, PS 321 suffers persistently from lack of space. A mini-building in the yard houses several classrooms as well as the science and art rooms, while the gym doubles as a cafeteria.
The school has had great success using Columbia University's Writing Process method, which emphasizes revision and re-write. From 1st grade on, all students have daily periods of silent reading. "Math leaders" spearhead math teacher training in each grade, and 4th and 5th graders struggling in math get extra help. All students have at least one full period of math daily above the amount prescribed by the city, and math work is displayed as prominently as writing and art projects.
Students in kindergarten through 3rd grade use Foss Science and 4th and 5th graders have science lab twice a week. Classwork is hands-on and emphasizes higher level thinking. In one 5th grade class, the students examined advertisements, looking at what the picture shows and how it goes with the text. In a Works Progress Administration ad from 1935, students examined the content, answering questions like, “Was this a big change?” and “What needed to happen to see this change?” Students have three periods a week of art and one of music. “We are trying to balance high expectations and fun,” explained Principal Liz Phillips, “the art, the music, the dance—we don’t want to give those things up.”
The school has a School Food Partnership with the DOE that enables them to have whole wheat pasta, roasted chicken instead of processed chicken tenders, and very little red meat with a vegetarian option always available. Chocolate milk is only on the menu twice a week. It also has a Green and Healthy Committee of parent volunteers that focuses on healthy eating, exercise and sustainability, and a school garden in partnership with GrowNYC that 30+ classes utilize.
Parents are very involved, bringing their children right to the classrooms and some helping out in the parent center. The PTA funds teaching artists and chess classes for 2nd and 3rd grade, and Together in Dance, a 2nd-5th grade dance program (K-1st grade has a DOE dance teacher). In one 4th grade dance class, students critiqued each others’ dances, set to poems, saying things like, “Go wild, but don’t go on autopilot. Make it bigger!”
Afterschool the PTA runs Kids Clubs that include dance, chess, junior Lego league, yoga, band and chorus. There is a 5th grade service corps where students volunteer two lunch periods per month for peer mediation, library squad, kindergarten lunch and play pals, or a number of other activities. Fifth graders go on to a variety of schools, including New Voices School for Academic & Creative Arts, Brooklyn Prospect Charter, and Math and Science Exploratory School.
Special education: PS 321 offers a variety of special education programs from Collaborative Team Teaching classes in each grade to self-contained classes and a full menu of SETTS services.
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. (Aryn Bloodworth, May 2011)