P.S. 277 Gerritsen Beach
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Unique marine biology program
Limited budget for marine biology and art
Tucked on a peninsula between Marine Park's salt marshes and Shell Bank Creek, PS 277 serves the children of firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses, electricians and other public service workers. Bungalows with fences and flags line quiet side streets ideal for learning how to ride a bike.
The school has long had a marine biology program. Children walk to a saltwater creek to observe sea plants and animal life. Local fishermen drop off sea bass and puffer fish for the impressive 1,000-gallon saltwater tank in the school's science room.
Fourth and 5th-graders use nets to catch small fish and crabs, which they bring to the tanks for further study. Once or twice a year they walk to the Salt Water Nature Center near the school. At school, children have jobs keeping track of weather statistics.
"It piques their interest," said Principal Jeanne Fish, adding that at least one former student became a marine biologist. She is particularly proud that the school has sparked an interest in science among girls.
At PS 277, children receive a solid education and the school earns above-average test scores. Classroom instruction has an ordered, timeless quality on this peninsulawe saw desks in rows, teachers talking and children working with textbooks.
At the same time, the principal leads school-wide initiatives each year to strengthen, say, problem-solving in math or to train teachers to ask meatier questions that make kids think hard.
Students from other schools visit PS 277's marine biology lab to participate in water filtration experiments and make Japanese fish prints using paper and ink.
With fewer than 500 students, the budget is tight not only for a fuller marine biology program but also for the arts. "We should have an art teacher," Fish said. Parents pay for painting and digital architecture classes from Marquis Studios.
The outdoor space at the school is wonderful. Curiously, on a mild 55-degree day, children were inside watching a video. The principal said it's uncommon for kids to stay in when the weather is above 40 degrees, but that sometimes this happens if they are understaffed that day.
The physical education teacher is licensed to teach physical education, which is unusual for an elementary school, and we saw a well-organized ball skills class in which every child was active.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-teaching classes mix children with disabilities into general education classes. There is one class for children with special needs only.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school.(Lydie Raschka, March 2016)Read more