Monday, May 23, 2005

The Earth School 

I received a special treat when we went up to New York City a couple of weeks ago to pick my daughter up from college. Amy took me on a visit to the Earth School, a pre-k through 6th grade progressive public school located in East Greenwich Village which my daughter works at as a teacher's aid. We must have spent over 2 hours there. I had the opportunity to have a long talk with Principal Michelle Harring, who explained in detail the challenges she faces on a daily basis trying to run her operation in the face of strong pressure from the central administration to conform to a standard educational model.

The Earth School tries to be different in that it focuses on providing its students a rigorous academic curriculum while focusing on the natural sciences and the arts. The approximately 160 students spend 2 years with the same teacher in the same classroom. The Earth School shares its building with 2 other public schools.

It was founded based upon the needs of local parents to find a high quality school that would meet the needs of its students. From what I observed they are certainly reaching their goals.
Amy brought me to the 5th/6th grade class in which she works. There I found teacher Maya Projansky leading about 25 kids in a lesson on documenting sources for their research papers. I heard a student repeat back to Mrs. Projansky extremely complicated instructions she had received from her teacher on how to properly annotate references. The students appeared smart and attentive. They came up to me and introduced themselves and were uniformly polite. They seemed to be learning the soft skills that would help them get ahead later in life. I almost forgot to mention that Mrs. Projansky is a first year teacher and it looks to me that she is already an expert at her profession.

All the kids and staff were trilled to see Amy. They are extremely excited that she will be back in the Fall. I'm proud of her.

The Earth School is a local community institution that uses a lottery to select which students are admitted when they are over subscribed. It appears that they have thought about converting to a charter school but as Abbe Futterman, one of the school's founders and the science teacher, explained to me the charter school law in New York City is weak in that it does not provide facility dollars. She commented that the only way a charter school in New York gets a building is if one is donated. This is great information since the WEDJ PCS is considering expanding to this area.

One last comment. I mentioned to the Principal that I was Chairman of the Board of Directors of a school for the performing arts and she said that if you are not teaching the arts then you are not teaching. I'm beginning to understand that she is absolutely correct.

If you have a chance click on the link above, choose school, and watch an excellent 5 minute introduction to the Earth School.

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