Brooklyn Prospect Downtown Charter Elementary School
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Kids dig deep into projects and are excited about learning, IB program begins in kindergarten
No outdoor green space or playground in busy downtown Brooklyn location
Opened in 2013, Brooklyn Prospect Elementary Charter School has quickly become a sought-after place, with a multiracial student body and staff (including a number of male teachers), a curriculum that follows the IB (International Baccalaureate) program, and a principal whose excitement about learning is infectious.
At the time of our visit, children were studying India as part of a virtual trip around the world "fueled" by math problems: Kindergartners created tissue paper marigolds a very popular flower in India, a 5-year-old proclaimed; 2nd-graders learned about the life of Mahatma Gandhi, colored an intricate Indian design; and watched an iPad video about cinnamon and other spices grown in India. Parents contribute to the virtual trip as well: Indian families taught the school audience a song at a schoolwide celebration, said Principal Jumaane Saunders, a Brownsville native.
The great thing is we have a diverse population. At each stop family members come in, said Saunders mentioning that a Nigerian family brought in food and clothes to help children learn about Nigeria on that stop of the virtual tour.
The IB curriculum calls for 2nd-graders to study rules, rights and responsibilities, so children at Brooklyn Prospect selected airports as a place where there are lots of rules and responsibilities. They created a pretend airport with a helicopter, security gate and metal detector and parents and teachers dressed up like security guards. To get them "jazzed about math, students push a make believe fuel tank around the school every morning collecting math problems from everyone, Saunders said.
Math seems particularly strong. Hundredsmaybe thousandsof math problems covered the bulletin boards at the time of our visit, as part of the virtual world tour leading up to the summer Olympics. The attitude Im not good at mathwere going to counter that, said Saunders, a former high school chemistry teacher.
There are two teachers in every class, and the school is flexible about how children do their work. A child with ADHD may choose to sit on a bouncy chair or take time in the hallway to bounce a heavy ball to get his wiggles out. Some children kneel on cushions to work at a low table or stand at a higher one. There are cool-down corners in each classroom where children may choose to chill out or may be sent there by the teacher.
Students dont necessarily stay in their own rooms, but may switch off depending on the days lessons and group configurations. They may be placed in a group with learners at a like level, or be interspersed with otherskids who qualify for G&T programs may be sitting next to a child with special needs.
Housed on the eighth and ninth floors of a Roman Catholic girls high school, Brooklyn Prospect has no playground, so children go by bus to Fort Greene Park to play once or twice a week; they also use the gym at the Park Slope Armory, and have indoor recess in the high schools gym. Children eat in their classrooms, rather than the cafeteria, where there's more to do and it's not so noisy, Saunders said.
Everyone gets immersion lessons in Spanishfrom day one in kindergarten. I dont think the children know that the teacher speaks English, said the principal. The teacher has a theatrical background and kindergartners excitedly participated in a game called Que sera? (What is it?) As one student pretended to be a horse, her classmates had to guess what she was. In that way, the youngest children learn Spanish vocabulary.
Saunders, the father of three small children, welcomes parents, who read aloud to children, help out at recess, go on field trips, and run after-school clubs.
The school day is longer than the customary Department of Education schedule, ending at 3:45 pm in 1stgrade and up. There is an active afterschool program that begins at 2:20 pm for kindergartners, and 3:45 pm for other grades (except on Wednesdays, when the school day ends early at 1:30 pm.)
In 2016, a new Brooklyn Prospect middle school opened with approximately 100 6th graders in District 13. The school will temporarily be located at 300 Willoughby Avenue. Jackie DeLuca, formerly head of middle and high school literacy, is the founding principal of the middle school, which she is co-leading with Kim Raccio, principal of new school development.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Every grade has at least one ICT class. For children whose IEPs (individual education plans) call for a small classroom setting, the school talks to the families to see how it can meet the childs needs without offering a self-contained classroom. In some cases, children thrive, the principal said, in others they must move to a different school that offers that option.
ADMISSIONS: Priority in the lottery goes to children in District 13 and siblings of Brooklyn Prospect students (including those in middle school in District 15). Forty-five percent of the seats are set aside for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In 2016, there were more than 850 applicants for 55 seats. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2016; updated August 2016; updated October 2016)Read more