Pre-K Center at Bishop Ford School Site
Joyous atmosphere where children learn through exploration
No classroom bathrooms or outdoor playground
Every day at the Pre-K Center at Bishop Ford (with its unofficial working title "School of Journeys," formerly K280 @ PS 10), four-year-olds don their outerwear, pick up their journals and venture into the world. On these "journeys," as their daily walks and field trips are called, they make snow angels, examine icicles, observe seasonal changes in trees or ponder construction signs that say "danger."
Opened in 2014 as a freestanding pre-kindergarten center overseen by nearby PS 10, the School of Journeys has a well-established feel, thanks to its crystal clear vision. It draws inspiration from the innovative Reggio-Emilia approach, which encourages kids to ask questions, explore, and express themselves through art, drama, music, writing, music and in other ways.
PS 10's principal Laura Scott was tapped to open the pre-k center, and she in turn coaxed one of her retired pre-k teachers, Marlene Ross, to take on staff development. They've put in place a joyful, truly inquiry-based approach. Ross helps hire teachers who are open to what she calls "spontaneous learning," and trains and mentors them. She has an infectious, persuasive passion for this approach, which calls upon teachers to listen carefully to children's questions, and tap into their curiosities, and then to follow up with questions and activities that will deepen and extend learning.
At full capacity the school will serve almost 400 kids in 21 classrooms. Parents are frequent classroom volunteers. They formed an active PTA in the first year, raised $10,000 for air-conditioners and light tables, and lobbied successfully to get an extra crossing guard outside the building where lumbering trucks merge onto the Prospect Expressway uncomfortably close to the school's entrance. The city quickly put in place lights and an official crosswalk.
A few downsides: The sturdy old building has old gray high school lockers and no in-class bathrooms for young children, who have to walk (inside) the equivalent of a city block with an adult to use them. There is an asphalt yard used only by the middle school students from Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter, which shares the building. Children walk to a small park on 19th Street.
Admissions: Lottery. Priority to district 15 families. (Lydie Raschka, May 2015)