Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School

5800 TILDEN AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11203 Map
Phone: (718) 629-1204
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
unzoned
Principal: MATT BROWN
Neighborhood: East Flatbush
District: 18
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: ERIC WATERMAN

What's special:

A genuine focus on building community; fantastic wilderness and urban field trips.

The downside:

Attendance could use improvement, limited music classes

The InsideStats

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Our review

Kurt Hahn combines wilderness and city field trips to help students grow academically and develop a sense of responsibility to the community.

The vibe in the school is welcoming. Students responding to the Learning Environment Survey say they feel safe and supported by the staff.

Founding Principal Matt Brown, a former Teach for America member and Peace Corps volunteer believes passionately in the school's mission. "Young people can do more than they think possible," he said, "especially if you put them in a position where they have to do it." 

Teachers give the principal high marks. About a third say on the survey that crime is still a problem in the building, but it has come a long way since the security problems that once plagued the Tilden High School building, where Kurt Hahn is located. "Students often come in behind and with lots of inconsistencies in their lives," a teacher said on our visit to the school, "but while our job is challenging, our working conditions are very good. A culture has been established at this school."

The majority of students arrive performing below grade level and a good number have stayed back a grade in middle school. In response, the school instituted additional basic skills classes to help students catch up. There are no Advanced Placement classes, but high-performing students can take classes for college credit at Brooklyn College or through Kingsborough Community College.

Attendance rates dropped for a few years, but outreach to families has stemmed the slide, Brown said, although there is still work to be done.

Daily advisory classes called crews are "really the engine of the school," according to Brown. Whenever possible, crews formed during freshman year are to remain together through senior year - and have the same teacher-advisor. Teachers there have developed a school-wide curriculum that stresses public speaking skills, active citizenship, and community involvement.

Kurt Hahn is part of the NYC Outward Bound network of Expeditionary Learning schools. Entering 9th graders participate in a five-day wilderness adventure course in the Catskills. This trip allows teachers to learn how their students problem-solve and deal with unusual situations and challenges. The students are asked to try new activities, like ropes courses, outdoor cooking, and mountain climbing, and the program is designed to encourage bonding within each crew.

Since small schools usually can't offer as many electives as larger high schools, Kurt Hahn is run on a trimester system, allowing more opportunities for students to try different courses. Twice a year, students take week-long intensive classes based on their interests. Intensive classes have included a marine biology class, during which students donned waders and got in the ocean alongside scientists taking part in a horseshoe crab case study and a digital filmmaking class, during which where students made sample commercials.

Special education: The school has Integrated Co-Teaching classes and pulls students out for additional services.

College: There is a dedicated college advisor and an emphasis on college preparation. Most students attend CUNY schools and some go to SUNY schools, such as Geneseo and Albany. Some students have gone on to Syracuse, Hobart Williams Smith, Union and Rutgers.

Admissions: Priority goes to students who attend an information session. (Lindsey Whitton Christ, October 2008; updated Meredith Kolodner, September 2012)

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