Science Skills Center High School for Science, Technology and the Creative Arts
Brooklyn NY 11201
Science and engineering courses including a robotics team
Some safety concerns
Science Skills Center High School for Science, Technology and the Creative Arts strikes a nice balance. It is smaller than the huge neighborhood high schools in Brooklyn, but larger than the tiny, new, themed high schools springing up throughout the city.
When the school was founded in 1993 with grant money from the National Science Foundation and the New Visions for Public Schools education reform group, it was called the Science Skills Center High School. It has since considerably expanded its offerings and its name. Kids call it "Skills" for short.
Students may apply to one of four programs, three of which are now selective: Gateway for Pre-College Education, Lead the Way (engineering) and Humanities and the Arts. Entrance to the school's generalized science and math program (the largest) is via the educational option admissions formula designed to ensure slots for students of all achievement levels. Skills maintains partnerships with nearby colleges such as Long Island University and New York City College of Technology, where kids who qualify may take courses and which many students go on to college.
In most classes we visited the approach was on hands-on learning. Ninth graders in the living environment classroom, for example, were doing experimentstesting the pH factor in household substances like coffee, lemon juice, and bleach. In a geometry class, students made models of different shapes, a project that would help them better grasp certain math concepts, the teacher said.
Following a pop quiz on The Color of Water, James McBride's moving memoir of childhood in an interracial home, students in an English class wrote dialogues responding to the book. They were then to turn their work into narrative, an exercise that would help them understand the process of writing, the teacher said. In another English class, students presented tableaus of scenes from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream.
A sophisticated engineering lab is the showcase for Lead the Way, the most rigorous program. Led by an engineer, students take a range of courses beginning with engineering design, where they learn the basics of drawing and how to make and read floor plans. They also create small cars propelled by mousetraps. Next door to the lab is home to the robotics club that has become so strong that it regularly beats the specialized high schools in competition.
Arts and humanities are also popular. On our visit we met a girl who is a published poet. Parents and teachers highly praise the after school dance team. We caught the tail-end of a dance class that concluded with the teacher and kids calling out West African salutations: Agoo (meaning "attention") and Amee (meaning "I'm listening."). The club annually performs with the Dance Africa festival at the nearby Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Skills has an ethnically mixed student body but is especially popular with Caribbean students. Unfortunately, it has gotten overcrowded as other schools moved into the building (City as School, Brooklyn International and Urban Assembly School of Music and Art), and Skills now is operating with three different shifts. School administrators told us they couldn't help but feel a bit of envy when millions of dollars were spent on renovating space for one of the new small schools in 2005, while Science Skills is in dire need of some sprucing up. Principal Denise Jennings was especially happy to hear that the Department of Education promised to soon fund an upgrade of the school's four science labs.
There are no bells and that may be one reason students tend to straggle into class late. We saw too many students socializing in the hallways between classes although we didn't see any rowdy behavior. A few teachers we spoke to praised "great" students, but attendance is well below the citywide average for high school. Teachers spoke about another challenge: "how to challenge the kids that are getting the material a lot faster and to not lose the slower learners," as one science teacher put it. There are very few high-level coursesonly four Advanced Placement classesand, in an oddity for a science school, neither calculus nor physics is offered.
This is not the school for athletes. Track is the only team, and the gym is too small for most sports, despite enterprising phys ed teachers. The day we visited, the gym was set up with ping-pong tables. In decent weather kids go out to nearby city fields. A new fitness room is popular with seniors.
Special education: There are seven classrooms that mix students with special needs and general education students, and that are taught jointly by a special education teacher and a general education teacher in a method called "collaborative team teaching" (CTT). The teachers in one such pairing told us that the approach works well and that they keep in touch via e-mail when they're not together in the classroom.
College Admissions: About 60 percent of the graduates go on to four-year colleges. Many students choose to attend New York City College of Technology and other CUNY programs, but graduates have been admitted as well to private colleges such as Middlebury, Brandeis, Yale, Amherst, and Columbia. (Pamela Wheaton, December 2005)
About the students
About the school
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About the leadership
About the teachers
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Programs and Admissions
Focuses on using hands-on and research techniques.
Challenging academic program that prepares students for majors in scientific studies at competitive universities.
Challenging courses in the field of engineering.
Challenging courses in writing, research, social sciences, humanities, and the arts.
Challenging courses in the field of pharmaceutical science and internship experience at a local pharmacy to prepare students to major in pharmaceutical science in college.
Introduction to the field of computer science and technology through exploration of engaging technology to help students to develop college and job ready skills in technology
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Computer Science, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP Music Theory, AP Psychology, AP US History
Boys PSAL teams
Basketball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer
Girls PSAL teams
Soccer, Softball, Table Tennis