Learners and Leaders
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Focus on early childhood learning; new building
Cafeteria doubles as auditorium
PS 305 Learners and Leaders, an early childhood program serving grades pre-K-2, opened its doors in September 2008 in a brand new building in Ridgewood, providing a nurturing, child-centered environment.
Building and location: PS 305 is located in Ridgewood, surrounded by a mix of residential and commercial buildings in a quiet neighborhood. The school is safe and inviting. The small school makes good use of its space. The cafeteria doubles as its auditorium; a multi-purpose room serves as the gymnasium. PS 305 has a large library with a full-time librarian who works with classroom teachers to foster the students love of reading. Each classroom has its own bathroom. The play yard is securely fenced-in behind the building.
School culture and environment: The pre-K-2 educational model at PS 305 was the vision of Principal Lynn Botfeld. According to Botfeld, traditional elementary schools are formed for grades 3, 4, and 5. She feels that they often do not place enough emphasis on early childhood instruction and curriculum development. Botfeld asserts that the primary mission of Learners and Leaders is to provide rigorous academics in a nurturing environment, so that younger students are able to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally, she says.
The visual displays posted on walls in hallways and classrooms emphasize the importance of reading and letter recognition. One parent said that her 1st-grader had developed a love of books and that her reading level had increased tremendously. While the school does not enforce a dress code, parents joined together to create a standard brown and white student uniform.
Teaching and curriculum: PS 305 uses a workshop-model curriculum that consists of short lessons for the entire class, followed by individual and small group work. Collaboration among teachers and staff is common. On the day of our visit, a physical education teacher incorporated letter and color visuals into a physical activity. In another classroom, a para-professional led a class reading activity as the teacher prepared the classroom tables for small-group work. Students were very attentive and well behaved. The school also features an arts-inquiry group, led by two English as a Second Language teachers, that integrates visual arts into instruction across all grade levels.
Partnerships and programs: PS 305 partners with the NYC Food Bank to bring in CookShop Classroom, a program designed to encourage children to eat more wholesome foods.
Special education: PS 305 hosts one self-contained classroom. Students are mainstreamed whenever possible, the principal said. The students in the self-contained classroom attend physical education class once or twice per week with students from the general education population.
English language learners: More than 70% of PS 305s students are of Hispanic heritage. Others speak Polish, Vietnamese, Taglog, and Romanian. The schools two ESL teachers work with classroom teachers during the literacy block for 45 to 90 minutes, depending on student proficiency levels.
Family involvement: Parents are very involved. Parents Association President Tania Torres stated that parents are very happy with the way the school is run and that Botfelds open-door policy makes the entire school a close-knit family. Once a month, the school holds family field trips to cultural and historical venues in New York City.
Admissions: PS 305 is a neighborhood school.
After graduation: Students at PS 305 transition to PS 81 following the completion of 2nd grade. (Ray Fredrick, November 2009)