MS 313, Dock Street School for STEAM Studies
Sparkling new building; dual emphasis on arts and science; ASD Nest program
New school is still developing its culture & tone
The Dock Street School for STEAM Studies, opened in September 2016, is off to a good start. With a handsome, light-filled building; a challenging, well-rounded curriculum; and a supportive group of parents, Dock Street is a welcome addition to a district with few strong middle school options.
"Here you don't have to choose between arts and science," said the parent of a 6th-grader who graduated from the popular PS 11. STEAM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math and the school has two science labs and an enticing array of visual arts, dance, music and drama. The school, housed on the second floor of a residential building in DUMBO, has an art room with a kiln and a dance studio. An Alvin Ailey instructor teaches dance.
Classrooms are cozy: some students curl up on comfy beanbag chairs while others nestle in a window seat. Teachers encourage class discussions and projects; for example, 6th graders created dioramas depicting life in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.
On our visit, during Black History Month, students started the day screening a videotape about prominent African-Americans. In music class, they sang Lift Every Voice and Sing. In art class, they made mannequins of clear tape to symbolize invisible slavesprops for a play they would put on.
The neighborhood has embraced Dock Street: St. Ann's Warehouse, across the street, holds student workshops, helps with school productions and invites students to their performances. Their stagehands taught teachers how to use the lighting and equipment in the schools combined gym and auditorium called a gymatorium. A local tech company invited Dock Street to participate in Big Idea Week. GAP clothing store donated uniform pants and shirts. Two Trees, a real estate developer, funds a Saturday Academy and a chess team. The school has no playground, but students go to Brooklyn Bridge Park at lunchtime. There is no technology lab, but laptops are used throughout the building.
Parents and teachers credit the principal, Dr. Melissa Vaughan, with creating a welcoming environment. "She's very highly respected. She's created that nurturing environment," a teacher said. "Kids feel safe and they feel cared for." A few red flags on the 2017 school survey: only 72 percent of the teachers said the principal was an effective manager and only 35 percent of the students said their classmates treated one another with respect.
Vaughan, a former Alvin Ailey dancer, was a special education teacher and dance teacher at Brooklyn High School of the Arts before becoming principal of Satellite West, a tiny middle school previously housed in nearby PS 307. When Satellite West closed in 2016, Vaughan and its remaining students moved to Dock Street, which kept the old schools number, MS 313. They were joined by about 100 new 6th graders.
The school shares a building with a Pre-K center.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT class and self-contained classes. Graduates of the PS 307 ASD Horizon Program for students on the autism spectrum continue in the program at Dock Street.
ADMISSIONS: Priority goes to District 13. The school considers student grades, test scores, attendance and teacher comments. After reviewing report cards, the school invites some students to a group interview and to complete a writing and science assignment. In 2017, the school got the most applications of any middle school in District 13, the principal said. (Pamela Wheaton, February 2017; updated October 2017)