P.S. 174 William Sidney Mount
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Theater, music, trips
Some classes meet in a portable on school grounds
The cupola atop PS 174 can be glimpsed through a stately row of oak trees lining a curved sidewalk in a neighborhood of attached brick houses in Rego Park. This orderly school has a gifted and talented program and partnerships with museums, the ballet and theaters that enliven a old-fashioned approach to instruction. In school, children study vocal music, drums, violin and drama.
The school is in a neighborhood with an aging population, according to long-time principal Karin Kelly, but by growing the G&T (gifted and talented) program, and increasing the number of ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes that mix children with disabilities in general education classes, it has been able to draw students from south of district 28 and the far side of Queens Boulevard. There are two pre-kindergartens and five kindergarten classes; G&T are the largest in size with up to 32 children.
Buddy systems encourage friendships across age levels and programs to knit everyone together. Older children may apply to monitor kindergarten lunch periods, for example, and older and younger kids pair up for some social studies units. Kindergartners and 2nd graders study inventions and the work of Leonardo da Vinci together. Fourth and 5th graders make circuits as they study electricity. Children from various programs get to know each other on debate, robotics and stock market teams.
Kelly has been at the school for more than 25 years, as a teacher, literacy coach and administrator. She and her teachers write grants in the summer for many things such as to study inventions with the Cooper-Hewett Design Museum and to fund an early literacy program. "We take so many trips," Kelly added—to the New York City Ballet, New Victory Theater, New-York Historical Society, Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Opera.
Teachers connect with parents in several ways. The "remind" app is a school communication tool with bus routes and easy sign-in for parent-teacher conferences or to help with classroom activities. Parents are invited to take "learning walks" through the school, and to attend literacy events, like an Alice in Wonderland tea party.
A G&T teacher said her students do more group projects, more singing and more public speaking than children in general education. Instruction is less dependent on workbooks and photocopied worksheets, she said. Children in G&T studied the murals of artist Diego Rivera as a way to learn more about Hispanic heritage, and made their own murals, for example. Kelly said all classes are intentional about covering "the basics," meaning handwriting, math facts, spelling, grammar and phonics.
English learners are grouped in one class, and one of their teachers brings in animals from his home collection. The children especially enjoyed watching snakes hatching from eggs, according to Kelly, who believes English speakers benefit from the excitement this generates, as well as from daily routines such as saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
School surveys show friction between Kelly and her staff. Some have been disgruntled by schedule changes that are out of her control, she said. To build a more positive tone school-wide, everyone reads the same book on a social theme and teachers study topics together, such as "growth mindsets" — the work by Dr. Carol Dweck on how to increase effort and learn from mistakes.
Some classes meet in a cramped portable on school grounds and must double up in classrooms in the main building when it snows. Instead of resorting to videos on cold and rainy days, like some schools, however, children enjoy well-supervised games on the auditorium stage.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-teaching classes on every grade. In one, a teacher used a microphone as two children, one with autism, demonstrated how to give peer feedback on writing. The teacher encouraged the child with autism to give positive feedback, a challenge he was able to meet with her guidance.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school with a district-wide gifted and talented program. (Lydie Raschka, November 2016)Read more