Samara Community School
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Projects about nature and the surrounding community; dual language
Too early to judge student achievement
Samara Community School is a dual language English and Spanish school where students work on interesting projects involving nature and the surrounding Claremont Village community.
Children visit area parks and the nearby Bronx River to learn about the natural environment, have opportunities to garden and take frequent field trips, particularly to the Bronx Botanical Garden. In a program called Forest School, pre-k and kindergarten children spend one day every other week in the garden’s woodlands, where, regardless of the weather, they observe, do projects and solve problems.
Every year has a theme. First graders, for example, focus on water and have raised trout in their classroom and investigated the problem of garbage in the Bronx River. Second graders study bridges and design their own structures. These investigations and projects culminate in a museum share at the end of the year. The pre-K follows the Reggio Emilia model, in which student interests guide the program. One year, the children were particularly interested in mud, so some of the curriculum revolved around that.
Samara has two music teachers, one a professional percussionist, and so offers choral and instrumental music and a Monday sing-along. Students swim at a nearby Boys and Girls Club; take lessons in capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian art that mixes martial arts and dance; and, from 1st grade up, play tennis every fall.
The dual-language program, which starts in pre-K, offers instruction in English and Spanish, and is designed to make children fluent in both. Children have two teachers—one for each language.
Because Samara is so new, test score data is limited. For the first two years scores were low but principal Danielle Derrig says that she believes reading skills have improved, owing partly to the school’s individualized approach to teaching reading and to a reading program that incorporates reading, spelling and handwriting instruction with specific strategies for helping dyslexic students.
The school embraces four big ideas: be kind, ask questions, work together and never give up. Attendance rates are high, and in a Department of Education survey, 100 percent of teachers said they would recommend the school. Teachers also praised the influence they have at Samara and the high level of cooperation there. Derrig has been principal since Samara opened.
Samara shares a building with Fairmont Neighborhood School, a zoned school serving grades 3-K through 5.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are team teaching classes with a mix of general and special education students for every grade but no self-contained classes for students with special needs.
ADMISSIONS: This school is not zoned. It prioritizes children who live in District 12 or have siblings at the school, but anyone is welcome to apply. It attracts children from throughout the Bronx. (Gail Robinson, from principal interview and web resources, June 2020)