P.S. 112 Jose Celso Barbosa
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ASD Nest program, child-centered lessons
No gym or music room
PS 112 is a joyful early childhood program serving pre-K through second grade. The school accommodates children who learn in different ways, yet its teachers believe that all children are curious about the world. Whether a child has autism, is learning English as a second language or is an avid reader, the primary focus is on teaching children to speak up, ask questions and delve deeply into a topic.
A stroll down the hallway is an education in itself. Charts, graphs, photographs, stories and drawings from school projects decorate the space. Children explore topics such as trees, mealworms, crickets, butterflies, grandparents, wetlands and New York City. Through their work, students learn what excites them, how science works, and new words like migrate and molt.
Instruction is done mostly in small groups. Children work calmly on a variety of activities, such as reading, writing or creating a timeline of their own lives. They are very absorbed in their work and hardly look up when a visitor enters the classroom. Field trips and video conferencing with people at NASA or students in China are other ways teachers help expand students horizons.
The school is a model of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program. In the early grades, spelling is not as important as a childs ideas, but punctuation, spelling and grammar become more conventional as children get older - the evidence of which we could see on the walls. The school has long used the Everyday Math program.
Families come from the nearby Wagner Houses and the brownstones and townhouses of the area. Native homelands include Puerto Rico, the southern United States, Chile, Yemen and Guatemala. This diversity is celebrated through multicultural celebrations, writing and family books. Family Science Day and Dads Day are popular events.
The school boasts two English-Spanish dual language kindergarten classes, one for children on the autism spectrum and another an integrated co-teaching class Many of the classrooms incorporate children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in the ASD Nest program - so-called because children with ASDs are nestled into neighborhood schools. Four children with ASDs are placed in classrooms with eight typically developing children. PS 112 also has the first combination ASD Nest and dual language program in the country. Staff has found that most children are able to meet the demands of a second language.
High flyers, as Principal Eileen Reiter calls top students, are grouped together for reading and math. About 40 second graders get extra support during a two-hour Saturday Academy and after school. There are three full-time reading teachers. Six kindergartners who need more time to grow and work on speech, sensory or other issues spend a couple of years in an intensive kindergarten before joining an ASD Nest classroom.
Physical space is limited. The music teacher must travel from room to room and the cafeteria doubles as a gym, but there is a science room, a dance room, a technology lab, a library (with a certified media specialist) and an art room. Gym classes are adaptive, meaning the teacher has training to help children with special needs such as a child who needs help with balance.
Teachers incorporate relaxation activities into the day and are themselves treated to two stress-reduction days that include massage. Parents may also attend relaxation workshops. A peace corner is available in every classroom for the child who craves quiet. Children learn dance, yoga and tennis. Second graders swim at Asphalt Green once a week.
The school has a well-developed Penny Harvest program, in which children raise money for a senior center and donate their time. According to Reiter, the children voted to support animals, grandparents and other children, so thats where they put their time and effort.
Admissions: Preference to siblings and children from District 4. There are about 87 seats in general education to which about 150 families apply. Children with ASDs, who come mostly from Manhattan, are recommended by the DOE, and a psychologist from PS 112 does an evaluation to see if they are a good match. At the end of second grade the majority of all students move to PS 206 in the same building, which continues the ASD Nest program (Lydie Raschka, November 2012).Read more