P.S. 31 Samuel F. Dupont
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Solid academics with old-fashioned values, lots of arts enrichment
Traditional tone may not appeal to everyone
At PS 31, parents take pride in their schools longstanding reputation for solid academics and old-fashioned values. The school is an orderly place where children are primed to follow the rules, but the environment is pleasant and instruction has moved away from very traditional methods.
Located in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, PS 31s student body has shifted over time, but not as dramatically as in rapidly gentrifying areas such as nearby Williamsburg. The school attracts middle class families new to the area, but continues to serve many low-income families.
The schools biggest change has been in tone and type of instruction. "I wouldn't say 'old-fashioned' values rule the day quite so much anymore," wrote the PTA co-president on our website. Teachers have shifted their lessons to emphasize group work and class discussions. "We used to be very traditional, with children sitting in rows facing the teacher," said longtime principal Mary Scarlato. "Now they share ideas and critique each other's work."
Teachers in all grades use the Reciprocal Teaching method, where students, typically in groups of four, guide one another through a lesson. For instance, students may read a passage silently and then highlight key ideas as a group, answer each others questions, figure out the meaning of tricky words and predict what they may encounter as they continue their reading. In math, kids work together to break down and solve word problems.
The school has also boosted its writing and research instruction. During our visit we saw 1st-graders mapping out ideas for their next writing project. In the library, 2nd-graders worked in pairs to choose and research a state on laptop computers. Scanning the room we also noticed that most had by their side a grade-level or challenging book that they selected to read for enjoyment. In the upper grades students write lengthier essays.
There's plenty of traditional learning going on too. We saw 5th-graders working in pairs to solve math problems in a textbook. Second-graders learn cursive writing and must use it exclusively starting in 3rd grade. A few parents we spoke with said they appreciated that the teachers were strict with their students.
Pre-kindergarten classes are vibrant spaces. During math time in one class, teachers worked one-on-one with students as their classmates played with stackable counting blocks or threaded string through labeled cardboard shapes such as a rhombus, rectangle and oval. Next door a very experienced pre-k teacher was at ease among the hubbub of center time where children were enjoying their activities of choice: sand table, painting, playing with cars and trucks, building with blocks or a computer math game.
Special teachers travel to classrooms to teach social studies and science. Enrichment activities, including art, music, ballroom dancing and chess, are funded by the Parents Association. Children produce an annual show in partnership with Disney Musicals in Schools.
PS 31 is part of the Greenpoint Eco-Schools initiative that funds a full-time sustainability coach who helps teachers and students design conservation and recycling projects to benefit the school and the community.
Working in the student-run bookstore is a popular activity. Students interview for jobs and manage all aspects of the business including handling purchases, setting prices (most books sell for $3 or less) writing book reviews, keeping track of inventory and running monthly promotions.
Children go outside for recess, and a parent commented that children now have access gym led by a full-time physical education teacher, after years of teachers leading gym in the basement. Teachers also lead a daily movement break in their classrooms.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has ICT classes on each grade and SETSS. Speech and occupational therapy are provided onsite.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school. PS 31 typically has room for students living outside its zone. (Laura Zingmond, May 2016; updated Jan 2018)Read more