Bronx Green Middle School

2441 WALLACE AVENUE
BRONX NY 10467 Map
Phone: (718) 325-6593
Admissions: Middle school choice for District 11
Principal: Charles Johnson
Neighborhood: Pelham Parkway
District: 11
Grade range: 06 thru 08
Parent coordinator: ZARIFA MUHAMMAD

What's special:

Students cultivate and cook produce grown in the school's garden.

The downside:

Some students struggle with poor behavior.

The InsideStats

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Our review

MARCH 2009 UPDATE: The Pelham Academy of Arts and Community Engagement, opening in September 2009, will share the former MS 135 building with Aspire Academy and Bronx Green Middle School. (MS 1135 closed in June 2008; the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation will move to CS 67 in September 2009.)

OCTOBER 2007 UPDATE: At Bronx Green Middle School students till the soil, plant and transplant crop and learn to cook produce grown in the school's fledgling garden. "Last year this was a big, brown desert," a student told Insideschools as we walked past patches of lettuce and perennial plants. "Now it's a garden." One cannot miss the metaphor: A garden flourishing amidst the bricks and asphalt of a Bronx neighborhood, tended by students in a new school born out of large failing one.

Bronx Green in one of 3 small schools that opened in September 2006, when MS 135, which once occupied the entire building, began to phasing out its population. The school is adding a grade a year and will graduate its first class of 8th graders in 2009. The other new schools are Aspire Academy and Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation.

Founding Principal Emily Becker, who grew up in California, said she was influenced by the The Edible Schoolyard, an organic farm founded by Alice Waters, chef and owner of the renowned Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, and tended by students of the Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley. "I wanted to expose my students the kind of learning the goes on in outdoor environments that many city kids don't have access to," Becker said.

Rounding out the new experiences are trips to the Bronx Zoo and Philadelphia and activities that students plan in their "advisory" sessions, small discussion groups lead by a teacher. One group held a slumber party at the school. Another chose to visit the Apple Store in midtown Manhattan and to dine at the Hard Rock Cafè. "Some of these students had never been to a sit-down restaurant before," said Becker.

The school has its struggles. Many of the students arrive performing below grade level and behavior is a prickly issue not just for Bronx Green, but throughout the building. Students were loud and boisterous during change of classes and there seemed to be stragglers in the hallways in all sections of the building. In some Bronx Green classrooms that we visited, it took students a long time to settle down and get focused.

To keep the most troubled students on track, the school's Opportunity Center gives individual attention to children who are suspended or otherwise in need of guidance. For some of these students, school provides the only examples of achievement and structure in their lives. "Sometimes these students are lacking attention at home," said a science teacher who stopped by the Opportunity Center to work one-on-one with a child struggling in his class. "This compliments what they lack outside the school."

For those who are prepared to excel, there are opportunities to do so. Teachers seemed to put a lot of time and energy into their lessons. We observed the principal meeting with a new teacher who was presenting a very detailed lesson on atmosphere and weather that she had designed. Becker seemed to take her role as chief educator seriously as she listened and made suggestions to the teacher

Classrooms we visited were lined with student work. A vocabulary "cemetery board" listed weak words that teachers want to "bury:" Students are asked to avoid using words such as "good" and "said" in their writing. "These are simple, inexpensive words; we try to use better ones," one student explained. At the end of each grade, students select and revise their best work from each of their classes to put in a portfolio, which they may need for admission to some high schools.

Math, English and social studies are taught in periods of 90 minutes to help the teachers cover the material in more depth. Students have advisory and gym on alternating days. In addition to core academics students can study art, music, Latin or participate in internships helping an employee, such as the safety officer, in the building.

Students wear uniforms of green or gold shirts emblazoned with the school emblem and pants of their choice.

Special education: The school offers SETSS (special education teacher support services), self-contained classes for student with special needs only and Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) classes, where two teachers work with a group of special- and general education students

After school. The school doesn't have a full after-school program, but academic help and a few classes, such as literacy through photography, are available for small groups of students on select days. (Laura Zingmond, October 2007)

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