Linden Tree Elementary School, PS 567
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Focus on science; warm, nurturing environment
Many students are chronically absent
Linden Tree is a small, nurturing elementary school founded in 2012. In 2017 it received a five-year magnet grant aimed at attracting students of diverse backgrounds from outside the school’s zone. The grant has funded a complete overhaul of the school’s curriculum as well as lots of new activities and supports for students. In service of its new magnet status, the school adopted a longer name: Linden Tree Elementary Magnet School for Global Leaders of Innovation and Discovery.
The tone throughout the school is cheery and sweet. In some classes we visited, soft music played as children worked quietly on a task. Teachers find ways to get children up and moving around. In a 1st grade lesson on wind, children stood up and mimicked the different intensities of a breeze, gust, etc. by waving their arms in the air. Fourth- and 5th-graders showed us a mindfulness hand game they play with a partner to help them stay sharp and focused throughout the day.
As part of the magnet grant, Linden Tree adopted EL Education model (formerly called expeditionary learning). Students in all grades participate in multi-week-long themed studies or “modules” that weave in lessons across all subjects. Teachers we spoke with at the school said the EL approach helps build content knowledge as well as reading and writing skills. Students spend the first half of a module learning the content whether it’s about birds, bridges or hurricanes. They spend the second half writing and completing projects based on what they learned.
There’s a strong emphasis on science. For instance, First-graders study the sun, moon and stars. As a class they read books on the subject and learn about the impact of light pollution on ecosystems and why in the Bronx you don’t see many stars during nighttime. By 5th grade, students tackle more complex topics such as biodiversity and the impact of natural disasters. Teachers schedule field trips that tie into their lessons. For instance, when students study birds or ecosystems they go to zoos and botanical gardens.
In grades 3 though 5, there are separate teachers for math/science and reading/social studies, which is uncommon in elementary school where one teacher typically teaches all subjects. This approach allows teachers to gain expertise in their subject area.
Change can be hard. Test scores dipped as it took some time for teachers and students to adjust to the new curriculum. While parents are happy with the school’s leadership, there is friction between teachers and the principal, based on responses to the annual school survey. Founding principal, Lisa Debonis said the changes are now taking hold and she is working with her staff to address teachers’ concerns.
Students study art in the school’s well-equipped art room as well as music and dance and show off their talents in numerous performances throughout the school year.
One challenge for the school: A lot of children are chronically absent, meaning they miss more than 18 days of school each year; many live in temporary housing. The parent coordinator visits shelters to connect with parents. The school provides uniforms to children who need them, runs a toy drive to give students holiday gifts and hosts holiday dinners. After school, all students can get work done in the homework lab, a room filled with tables, computers, books and games. Parents and caregivers are welcome to stop by to work with their children too.
Counselors from the Child Mind Institute work with students who have experienced trauma. A visiting dentist provides onsite dental care to students.
Linden Tree has a fee-based after school program run in partnership with Ultimate Enrichment. Vouchers to cover the enrollment fee are accepted for eligible families.
The school shares a building with JHS 127, which many Linden Tree students attend for middle school.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes on every grade.
ADMISSIONS: While Linden Tree continues to only admit zoned students in kindergarten, it welcomes new students from across District 11 and the Bronx beginning in the first grade. (Laura Zingmond, December 2019)Read more