P.S. 6 Lillie D. Blake
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Strong academics, good facilities and involved parents
Some teachers want more opportunities to try out new ideas
Just off Park Avenue, less than two blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, PS 6 has a strong writing program, a thoughtful approach to math and devoted parents, many of whom easily could afford private school.
There is plenty of excitement in classes and kids seem to be interested in their work, whether its playing a telling-time memory game, writing political essays or painting clay butterflies.
The quality of student writing is very high. From the earliest grades, children learn to write with a voice. Even kindergartners write persuasive essays. For example, one child told classmates why its important to cross the street carefully.First-graders put together multi-media presentationsnarrated slideshowsexplaining why some bugs are helpful (ladybugs eat other bugs, bumblebees pollinate flowers) and others are not. (Nobody had anything good to say about cockroaches.)By 5th-grade, writing topics are quite worldly: One child was eager to share his political essay, in which he waxed poetic about "the genius of Karl Rove" and despaired "the breakdown of the Republican Party."
PS 6 has long been considered a shade more traditional than some other District 2 schools with a focus on spelling, grammar, cursive handwriting and phonics. At the same time, children may pick books that interest them from bins in their classrooms and write about topics of their own choosing. There are plenty of class discussions, lots of small group work and freedom to think outside the box. During a unit on Native American culture, one student made a diorama, another created an iMovie, and another actually carved a Birchwood canoe with his father (who came in to class to help explain how they did it).
The school has taken steps to improve the rigor of math instruction without tracking children into fast and slow groups. Teachers use the progressive Investigations math curriculum, which emphasizes the conceptual understanding of math, but they supplement it with other approaches, such as Singapore Math. There is also room for more self-directed projects. For example, 1st-graders learned about data collection by writing and administering their own surveys to the 5th-graders, with questions like, Would you rather be a whale or an eagle? or Would you rather watch Star Wars or Harry Potter? before collecting and analyzing the results. Math-loving children may take part in a lunchtime "math team" to prepare for the Math Olympiad national competition.
Teachers have created an accelerated math group for particularly strong 5th-graders, who may study topics more commonly mastered in 6th or 7th grade, such as the volume of rectangular prisms, ratios and rates.
Children grow vegetables on the roof garden and eco-center and learn about nutrition and the human body. They grow rock candy crystals, watch caterpillars turn into butterflies and observe the growth of silkworms. In a more challenging experiment, teams of kids had to design their own solar cookers, keeping in mind the principles of reflection, absorption and insulation. After watching a National Geographic video about heating water to kill microorganisms, children placed two thermometers in their boxes, which are partially filled with water, and aimed for a target of 65 degrees Celsius. Cooking and eating their own s'mores was a well-earned bonus.
Lauren Fontana, principal since 2006, received her masters in education at Bank Street College, and was a Cahn Fellow at Teacher's College, Columbia University. While teacher and parents responses to school surveys are overwhelmingly positive, 25 percent of teachers said they did not receive "enough time to think carefully about, try and evaluate new ideas." Fontana and her two assistant principals Amy Santucci and Jane Galasso, say they work hard to make sure teachers get plenty of support. Assistant teachers receive professional development on topics like classroom management, guided reading and helping kids with sensory needs, Fontana said.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers speech, hearing, occupational and physical therapy, as well as ICT team-teaching classes and SETSS(special education teacher support services). The school also provides counseling, art therapy and various support groups, such as for children whose parents are separating. Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers receive training in Reading Reform, a philosophy toward teaching phonemic awareness, based on Orton-Gillingham techniques. PS 6 aims to be flexible in how it provides extra help, whether or not a child has an Individual Education Plan, the legal document that outlines the services to which a child is entitled.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Clara Hemphill, May 2014 & Aimee Sabo, May 2016)Read more