Muscota New School, PS 314
Very involved parent body
Small, cramped space with no room to grow
Founded by a group of parents and teachers in 1993, Muscota New School offers a cheerful, progressive learning environment with an emphasis on the arts. Parents are involved to an unusual degree: On our visit, we saw parents lead a visual art class, facilitate a group in drama class and read to students.
Kids develop a strong foundation in what it means to be a member of a community, a common thread throughout the school. Teachers use morning meeting, closing circle and school-wide meeting times to openly discuss how to build the community, solve conflicts and create shared expectations.
Children are taught, as early as kindergarten to speak up and express themselves, because how their voice is used is a part of learning, said Camille Wallin, principal since 2010. Discipline is not punitive, and rewards and punishments are not used. Each class spends the first six weeks of the school year outlining their hopes and dreams for the coming year. Kids help to create their own rules and come up with concrete ways to take responsibility for their actions.
Field trips augment the four big social studies themes children tackle each year. Second graders study transportation and visit the NY Museum of Transportation, for instance. Fourth graders visit Ellis Island during their immigration unit. "They go out into the real world for authentic experience," said Wallin.
Arts are integral to the overall school philosophy. Art class challenges you as a creative thinker so your artistic ability is going to be nurtured here, said Wallin. All students participate in dance, music, visual arts and drama with performance opportunities in each. The school has partnerships with Carnegie Hall, the NYC Student Shakespeare Festival and the mini, school-based Museum of Modern Art event, where each year kids create an original piece of artwork, which is then exhibited at the school and sold.
Under Wallins leadership, the school has boosted its test scores while retaining the qualities it has long been known for: creative hands-on projects, a progressive philosophy and focus on social and emotional development. This small school has two classes on every grade.
The school is housed in a four-story brick building, which it shares with Amistad. Space is tight, and classrooms feel small and cramped. The two schools work well together to improve shared use of the building, including the outdoor play area and library.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: All children with special needs are integrated into regular classrooms.
ADMISSIONS: Muscota is open to all District 6 families. Students are chosen by lottery and preference is given to siblings of students enrolled at the school. Parents are encouraged to tour the school. (Mahalia Watson, November 2015; updated August 2016 by phone)