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Kids program robots and grow vegetables indoors
Small playground, no pre-kindergarten
Walk into just about any class at PS 376, and you'll see kids who are happily engaged in their work. Children studying Japan make pretend sushi from clay, and chopsticks from pipe-cleaners while their classmates program a doll-like "robot" to teach the alphabet to younger children.
Children grow hydroponic vegetables in an environmental lab, or discuss a book in a "Socratic seminar," in which they sit in a circle and answer open-ended questions from their teacher. In one class, children dance to the hokey pokey. In another, 5th-graders learn to fox trot.
Rarely do you see a teacher talking to the whole class here. Instead, children talk quietly among themselves as they work in groups or individually on their laptops. "My kids are very talkative," Principal Maria Vera-Drucker said proudly as she took us on a tour.
PS 376 uses technology to an unusual degree. Even small children write their essays on computers, and children use computers to learn to match letters and sounds. Some use earphones to listen to books read aloud.
The technology curriculum includes the NAO Humanoid Robot Coding Program and LEGO Robotics. In classes ranging from special education to G&T (gifted and talented), kids use laptops for math drills and coding. Kindergartners learn to type; by 5th grade, children are using Keynote (Apple's answer to PowerPoint) and iMovie.
PS 376 houses the only G&T program in District 32. It draws children not only from District 32 but also from other nearby districts that have no gifted programs. The gifted classes are demandingkids learned words like "meta-cognitive" in onebut there doesn't seem to be a division between G&T and other classrooms as there is in some schools. The quality of teaching in all classes seemed high.
Drucker, a graduate of New York Institute of Technology and who was assistant principal at PS 112 in Queens before becoming principal here in 2010, encourages collaboration among the staff. Decisions about curriculum are made jointly.
Parents are welcome, and the day of our visit one group of mothers was chatting in the parent room, while others learned how to use computers in the computer lab. Families hail from Central and South America and the Caribbean, with a handful of children from England and China.
Teachers shy away from the scripted reading programs used in many city schools, and children learn to read from fun-to-read picture books rather than textbooks as part of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. The school has embraced the progressive Investigations math program, which encourages children to learn different ways to solve problems. Assistant Principal Angel Ortiz says the program teaches mathnot merely arithmetic. "I teach you how to add, that's arithmetic. I teach you 'why,' that's mathematics," he says.
There are no blocks or dress up corners in kindergarten, but there is a kitchen where children may prepare real snacks like fruit salad or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There is no pre-kindergarten. The playground is small.
Students take field trips related to science. They visit a recycling plant, Green Meadow Farm, the Prospect Park Zoo and the New York City Watershed. Teaching artists from Studio in a School provide art instruction.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT, or team-teaching, classes that include both children with special needs and general education students. It also offers self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. There is a citywide test for the district-wide gifted and talented program. (Clara Hemphill, January 2016)Read more