Our World Neighborhood Charter School
Queens NY 11106
Welcoming environment, great art program
School housed in two different locations
At Our World Neighborhood Charter School, teachers balance a structured curriculum and traditional academics with the arts and hands-on projects. Children speak many different languages and come from different ethnic groups and the staff works hard to make everyone feel welcome and valued.
Kids here feel that they can be themselves and that they can come as they are, said middle school principal Lisa Edmiston.
The elementary and middle schools are housed in two different buildings a few blocks apart in a gentrifying section of Astoria. The elementary school building is directly across the street from the Museum of the Moving Image, a popular field trip destination, and the Kaufman Astoria Studios. The middle school, located at 31-20 37th Street, is hosted in a former religious school building. Space is an issue in both buildings: the elementary school lacks a gym and the middle school uses a walled-off section of the cafeteria for the ESL and art rooms. While having separate locations is less than ideal, Our World Neighborhood maintains a consistently welcoming and supportive atmosphere in both buildings.
As its name suggests, Our World Neighborhood strives to promote a culture that celebrates diversity and global citizenship. The school values are expressed through the Pillars of Positive Community, which identify a different value for each month of the school year ranging from kindness to friendship to citizenship. The Pillars encourage students to talk about who we are as a community, what are our responsibilities to each other and to the local and global communities, explains Executive Director Brian Ferguson.On our visit, the students seemed happy and engaged. Teachers and other staff seem dedicated to the students and to the school. They lead clubs, seem to know students on a personal level, and sometimes come in on weekends to make improvements to the school buildings.
Both elementary and middle school students do lots of hands-on projects in the classroom, and teachers often use small group work to accommodate students with different levels of ability. A 2nd grade class we visited had recently finished a project where they made drawings of a fictional character named Flat Stanley, wrote their own stories about the character, and mailed their drawings and stories to pen pals all over the world. Another class that was studying animal diversity was eagerly awaiting a visit from some animals to their classroom. A 7th grader reported that in her science class, they were preparing to dissect frogs. The middle school is part of the Urban Advantage program, which connects schools to scientific and cultural resources in the city to promote an increased understanding of scientific inquiry.
We see ourselves as a liberal arts program, said Ferguson. We want to educate the whole child. Social studies, science, ELA, math, and Spanish are taught in grades K-8, and Mandarin Chinese is offered in grades 5-8. Art and culture are integrated into classes across the curriculum, and the school offers classes in the visual arts, music, and film. Eighth grade students may take Regents courses in living environment and math, and of the students who took Regents exams in 2011, over 80 percent passed.
The school offers a wide variety of extracurricular activities. In the middle school, Friday afternoon is dedicated to enrichment classes including chess, yearbook, salsa dancing, and ballet. After-school activities include basketball, soccer, flag football, and volleyball. Thanks to a partnership with the New York Junior Tennis League, students may also play tennis after school. The school also provides after school activities including African drumming club, student government, and a homework help program. Students may also participate in an annual ice skating trip and visits to Clearpool, New York for field trips in 6th and 8th grade.
The vast majority of students stay for both elementary and middle school. Many students attend the nearbyFrank Sinatra High Schooland theBaccalaureate School for Global Education.Bronx High School of Science, theHigh School of Environmental Studiesand theHigh School of Art & Designare other popular high school options.
Special education: There are no self-contained classes. The school offers Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETTS) through a pull-out and push-in model where students receive extra support both in and out of the classroom. Additionally, the school has an occupational therapist, a speech and language teacher, a social worker, and a guidance counselor on staff in addition to three reading teachers. The 1stt grade students who need the most help participate in the Reading Recovery Program, which strives to help them improve their reading skills through early intervention. Participating students work one-on-one with the Reading Recovery teacher five times a week for thirty minutes over the course of twenty weeks.
Admissions: By lottery, and preference is given to students from District 30 and siblings of current students. New students are accepted each year K-7. In 2012, there were about 450 applications for 75 seats. (Pauline Zaldonis, March 2013)