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PS 118 Maurice Sendak Community School
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Experienced leader; robust social studies
School is located outside the attendance zone
Aptly named after Maurice Sendak, the author of Where the Wild Things Are, PS 118 is a bubbly, inventive place where young wild things are encouraged to express themselves and explore the jungle of New York City and beyond. Children create projects based on trips, experiences and lessons in a rich social studies program that brings added meaning to reading and writing. They study Spanish and get to design their own homework.
A sign on the door to a pre-kindergarten class says, Under Construction! because of all the building going on inside, with LEGOs, wooden blocks, Magna-Tiles and other materials. Hallways are filled with collage, sculpture, facts about polar bears, bar graphs and photos of childrens faces with bubbles saying what they want to be when they grow up. A big, bright science room has fish tanks, crickets and plants. In science, parents were told on a tour, kindergartners get to study worms.
Children explore their neighborhood and the wider city: On our February visit, 1st graders had already gone on eight field trips to see historic sites, museums and more, in their exploration of Brooklyns history.
Second graders take field trips to Ellis Island as part of their immigration study, culminating in a living wax museum in which kids dress up and tell immigrant stories. Every opportunity is an opportunity to learn something new, said Principal Elizabeth Garraway.
Spanish is infused into academics and play, and children hear it spoken throughout the daynot just in twice weekly Spanish lessons. At least one of the two teachers in every classroom is bilingual. Beginning in pre-kindergarten, children sing songs in Spanish, learn the alphabet, and practice simple words about the weather, clothing and body parts.
Garraway designed this multicultural approach in keeping with her own international background and her experience as assistant principal at popular PS 321. A graduate of Midwood High School, she has a master's degree in Spanish and anthropology and studied in Europe, living in Spain for seven years. She taught both Spanish and French in Brooklyn middle and high schools. "My background is in language, culture and people, and what's important to me is to use that background in the work that I do," Garraway told DNAinfo.
The school has an unusual homework policy called EYB (exercise your brain), in which children choose from a menu of ideas that may include making a nonfiction book, a diorama or a homemade board game incorporating facts about tornadoes. On our tour, we saw projects that went far beyond the scope of typical fill-in-the-blank homeworkbut in their sophistication seemed dependent on organizational guidance from an adult at home.
Parents are very active at PS 118. They accompany classes on field trips and neighborhood walks and began a fee-based after-school program. They are invited to monthly family Fridays for an art project or breakfast. They raise money for trips, arts and the second adult in every classroom. Garraway said parents raise about $1,000 per child per year.
Opened in 2013 to ease overcrowding at nearby PS 321 and PS 107, PS 118 is housed in former parochial school building, St. Thomas Aquinas. There are two classes on most grades, including pre-kindergarten. Well-designed renovations include a airy top-floor gymnasium and a cafeteria with a glass divider on the ground floor.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school is flexible about offering children the services they need, said Garraway, formerly a special education supervisor at PS 321. A lot of the teachers are certified to teach special education, she said.
ADMISSION: Neighborhood school. The school is located outside its attendance zone, roughly comprising the area between Third and Fourth avenues and President and Sixth streets. (Lydie Raschka, parent tour, February 2017)Read more