Category Archives: School

Creating Change with AltSchool Union Square

The Middle school years are an important time for our children to learn more about themselves and the world around them.  This is why choosing the right school is such a critical decision for many parents in NYC.  Recently, Kidz Central Station toured a new middle school in Manhattan, AltSchool Union Square, and we were especially impressed by their data driven approach which truly delivers on the notion of a personalized education.altschool-logoAltSchool

 

 

AltSchool was founded in 2013 by a former Google exec with the concept of having students actively participate in their education by setting and tracking their own goals and cooperating with teachers to shape the curriculum. The ‘future of education’ was to use collected data on the students’ learning to create a more personalized education.

And we were impressed by the data.  AltSchool’s digital platform tracks everything from attendance to grades to Personalized Learning Plans (PLP). Teachers work with families and students to design the PLP, a set of goals based on the student’s interests, likes, strengths, and weaknesses.  Students are supplied with a Chromebook and complete individual and group activities from a “playlist” that is customized to their needs and interests.  Teachers pick activities for their students by creating items in their playlists.  This then frees up the teacher to walk around the classroom and interact more with students.  It’s an exciting concept merging technology and data with education; thus making parent-teacher conferences less subjective and more informed!

AltSchool Union Square

AltSchool Union Square

After initial growing pains, the AltSchool team has streamlined their vision into lab schools such as AltSchool Union Square. Opened in 2017 for grades 5-8, the school opens into a very modern, efficiently designed space with a bleachers style gathering area for morning meetings and end of week discussions. The whole school will gather here for anything from student-led presentations to teacher previews of the week. The bright, airy classrooms have nook spaces for individual learning and collaborative pods for small group learning.  Each classroom is also equipped with small “phone booths” that offer students  a self-imposed time-out session to re-focus.  The lunch area is another open space offering kids more moments for gathering and collaborating and thinking.AltSchool Union Square

AltSchool Union Square

The core values at AltSchool are Citizenship, Agency, Responsibility, Empathy.  Students decide how to apply these ideas to their lives and the school community.  They create Learner Agreements as they promise to achieve and help others achieve these values.  The school follows the NY common core curriculum and complete ELA, Science, Math and History/Social Studies standards as students graduate from here to any type of high school they desire.AltSchool Union Square

AltSchool Union Square

Currently, there are about 35 students enrolled at this location with the goal to grow to 80 students.  Students can arrive as early at 8am although instruction starts at 8:30am and ends at 3:30pm. Students learn beyond the classroom through museums, NYC landmarks, and cultural sites.  Physical education classes are taken at the local YMCA, music classes with Third Street Music, and Art with a teacher from the Children’s Museum of Art.  A Spanish teacher comes onsite for daily classes.  After school activities include chess with more options to come.  Many of the students do after-school activities in the community, e.g. theater, arts, science extension programs.

AltSchool Union Square

AltSchool Union Square

Overall, we were very impressed with the facility, the active and engaged students, the friendly staff, and the technology platform.  It is very popular today to talk about a whole child approach or a personalized education but very few schools are showing parents how they achieve this goal.  At AltSchool, Parents are very involved in shaping their children’s education.  Thanks to the data collected every day, parents can really know what their kids are doing during the day, the exact areas where they excel or need extra help, and how teachers are honoring the pledge to a personalized approach.  It’s a concept for the future and many parents are embracing it.

Attend an Open House.  Date: Thursday, October 11th @8:45AM. Location: 90 5th Ave, New York, NY, 2nd floor.

April is Autism Awareness Month

autismimageApril is Autism Awareness month as many organizations such as Autism Speaks and Autism Society promote awareness and acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is the fastest growing developmental disorder and now affects about 1 in 68 children (according to Autism Science Foundation). Considering this prevalence, ASD likely affects a family you know or your child knows. This is why Kidz Central Station is committed to helping educate our parents and community about both the challenges and the joys of children with Autism.

The Quad Manhattan is a top NYC school for children with learning differences. Teachers and clinicians work with students both one-on-one and in small groups to allow kids to move at their own pace of learning. Quad Manhattan offers a six-week summer camp for children ages 5+. Enroll in a free open house to learn more.

Music for Autism hosts FREE concerts for kids with autism and their friends, family, and loved ones. The Kidz Central team attended the March event and came away with a new appreciation for music in a loving and interactive setting. Our kids especially enjoyed dancing and playing instruments along with the music, as well as the tasty snacks. Two April events are upcoming in Park Slope and Manhattan.

Our partner NYU Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, offers many well-researched and FREE webinars for our parents on a range of helpful topics, including strategies for helping kids with social anxiety, safety awareness for kids with ASD, medication management for ADHD, or dating with ASD.

Please join Kidz Central Station this month and throughout the year by promoting understanding and acceptance of all of our children! Take a class, participate in a walk, donate, educate yourself with a webinar, or just spend time with someone with Autism.

Keeping Your Kids Ahead of the Class

gadda1With abundant choices available from daycare to nannies to 2s programs to pre-school, parents in New York City have a tough decision to make about childcare in the early years. More and more parents are looking for a one-stop solution that nurtures their child from infancy through pre-K while developing a familiar, social experience with a structured, learning environment.

With this in mind, the Kidz Central Station team recently toured the newly opened pre-school/daycare on 2nd Avenue called The Goddard School of Murray Hill in Midtown East. This is a play-based school with a focus on meaningful interactions with the children. 

We met Owner Rami Singh, a former Finance exec who developed a passion for early childhood education after becoming a father of two super adorable children who are now enrolled at the school. Like many of us, he found a void when considering the childcare debate. What is the choice for those of us who want a family feel experience for our kids that takes full advantage of these early, impressionable years?  His answer was to build it himself.

gad2

A great advantage of The Goddard School of Manhattan in Murray Hill, which opened in November 2017, is the facility.  It is housed in a clean, vibrant space full of sunlight and brand new and spacious classrooms. And by clean, we mean the space is cleaned 3x a day!  The hallways are decorated with fun animal shapes, a world map, daily schedules, teachers’ curricula, and inspirational quotes. An outdoor rooftop playground is soon to come! There are more than enough areas to store strollers inside the building. Singh’s thoughtfulness for his venture shines through in the details, such as the international themes in the decor and even the intricate details in the rock climbing wall in the gym.  It is a truly modern space. We will say, from our experience, this is not easy to find in Manhattan. When many of us were searching for daycare years ago, we found many schools in the basements of buildings with cramped spaces that did not appeal to us.

Fantastic space aside, the curriculum and teachers are the real stars at this new school.  More than anything, the school strives to go beyond typical daycare and provide a “whole child experience” that appreciates each child’s individuality and taps into each child’s way of learning.  To that end, the curriculum is designed and then refined with the focus on the children, not the teachers or the parents, but the children.  The toys, the activities, the class layout, the schedule all focus on the children’s age and abilities.  We were intrigued by their philosophy of  F.L.EX to provide “a Fun Learning EXperience.”  That means giving children the freedom to have fun while discovering and exploring with hands-on activities, customized lessons, and nurturing encouragement.  In our opinion, the school was succeeding in this.

godda2

We witnessed the positivity and warmth of the teachers firsthand as we toured the school.  The classrooms were filled with smiling faces and the teachers were happy to meet with us and let us see their classrooms in progress.  Each teacher is responsible for constructing the curriculum for his/her classroom to balance independent and cooperative learning with outdoor playtime.  For example, a Toddler full day schedule would include music, social skills, creative arts, yoga, nature studies, sign language, and Spanish among many other activities.  A Preschool schedule would include many of the above mentioned activities in addition to handwriting, math, science, dramatic play, computer lab, chess, reading readiness, and language arts.  It’s a full day schedule with many breaks built in such as nap/quiet time, snack and lunch as provided by the school, outside play, and circle time.

Many current parents give high marks to the school and enthusiastically recommend it to others.  They are are sent daily reports via app with photos and videos from the day.  They feel included in a cooperative and collaborative environment that takes their children’s progress and needs into account. The parents tout the engaged teachers, the beautiful facilities, the custom curriculum and the caring owner as pros.

The school is open through the summer and offers a camp that incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning.  They are developing a variety of themes to tailor to each child’s interests using play-based learning both inside and outside of the classroom.  And the rooftop playground (again, a huge plus in our books) is expected to be completed in July when camp opens.

We, also, want to highlight the several security measures in place at drop-off and for entering the building. Parents/caregivers must check in on a touch screen with a security code at drop-off and pick-up so that every child is accounted for. And there is a security code and Biometric Hand Scanner required to enter the school facility.  We appreciated this added layer for the children’s protection. 

The Goddard School of Murray Hill is a franchise of the nationwide The Goddard School and is currently accepting applications and tour requests. It is located at 751 2nd Ave between 40th and 41st Streets. It welcomes children from infancy to age 6 and offers year-round full day 7AM – 6:30PM schedules or half day depending on your needs. Please check them out for yourselves!  Click here.

The Route to Success?

SA_2017_BeeBots_002When it comes time to apply to kindergarten in New York City, many parents are considering charter schools, and that often means exploring Success Academy’s well-known programs. While there is no single way to find the best kindergarten for your child, talking to the school and listening to parents are great ways to start. Kidz Central Station spoke with Success Academy and with Success Academy parent Alpa Patel to ask some questions you might have. So, if you are wondering, “Is Success Academy right for my child?” or “Should I apply to a charter school in New York?”, read on.

Kidz Central Station: What makes Success Academy different from other charter schools and from other schools in general?

Success Academy: Success Academy schools are distinct from other schools in our firm commitment to progressive pedagogy and to educating the whole child. We believe deeply that doing is at the core of learning, and Success scholars receive only 80 minutes of direct instruction (teacher up front) throughout the day. The rest of the day is devoted to discussion, small-group instruction, and hands-on learning — including inquiry-based science five days a week beginning in kindergarten (our students carry out more than 100 experiments each year!).

Our scholars explore and create through arts, chess, sports, recess, board games, creative writing, and project-based learning — and for kindergartners, blocks play and choice time. We believe that schools vastly underestimate the capacity of each child to think and achieve at a high level. Giving scholars the opportunity to do the “intellectual heavy lifting” as they grapple with challenging, complex problems and ideas makes learning not only engaging and appealing, but also deep and lasting. This progressive approach cultivates in our scholars a true zest for learning, and prepares them for the rigor and independence needed to succeed in college and in life.

Kidz Central Station:  Why/how did you choose Success Academy for your child?

Success Academy Parent: This past year, we switched our son to Success Academy for 3rd grade. After attending K-2 at our zoned public school, he was unmotivated and disinterested in school and adopting lazy habits. We were frustrated with the lack of communication and feedback to parents. We had heard about Success Academy Union Square, which is in our neighborhood, from other local parents and knew of its reputation for academic rigor. At first, we were concerned that he might not be able to adapt to such a steep step up in standards, but we also knew he couldn’t continue on the apathetic path he was on. Kids accept challenges more easily than we think. Now, we wish we’d moved to Success Academy  sooner

Kidz Central Station: Describe the typical Success Academy student

Success Academy: There is no “typical” scholar at Success. Our curriculum and instruction are very rigorous, and at the same time our schools are designed to ensure that every child receives the support and attention they need to meet their full academic potential. We provide individualized supports to scholars who need them, and acceleration for scholars who are ready to skip ahead. We celebrate, and work hard to cultivate, the “ACTION” values of Agency, Curiosity, Try and Try, Integrity, Others, and No Shortcuts. Our scholars tend to work hard, treat each other with great kindness and respect, and have a real enthusiasm for learning.

Kidz Central Station:  What do you and/or your child like best about Success Academy?

Success Academy Parent: Our son constantly praises Success Academy when comparing to his old school. He enjoys being recognized for his achievements. He clearly understands what is expected of him and receives frequent updates on his progress. We like best that Success Academy has taught him to enjoy learning while understanding that school is important.

Kidz Central Station: We hear students take on advanced topics in early grades. Could you give some examples?

Success Academy: We introduce scholars to advanced ideas and concepts from a very young age through rich texts, complex problems, and purposeful discussions that help them make connections between their intuitive understanding and academic content. For example, any five-year-old can — with great precision — divide a cookie in equal parts to share with two friends. In kindergarten math, we introduce basic concepts of division and fractions through these kinds of real-world problems.

Our project-based learning (PBL) units use engaging topics to tap into scholars’ natural curiosity and push them towards advanced analysis and mastery. For example, during our second-grade Brooklyn Bridge PBL unit, scholars conduct experiments to learn the engineering principles behind bridge construction, build their own model suspension bridge, and paint the Brooklyn Bridge in art. In social studies, they read different historical accounts of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and debate the question of whether Emily Roebling was indeed the project’s chief engineer, as many historians now believe. They learn about labor and transportation conditions in New York City at the time the bridge was built, and write letters as 19th-century New Yorkers advocating for the bridge or for safer working conditions.

Kidz Central Station: What are kids reading in various grades?

Success Academy: Our approach to teaching literacy stems from our deep-seated belief that if children love reading and read exceptionally well, they can teach themselves anything. To that end, our literacy curriculum introduces scholars to great literature and emphasizes critical thinking, knowledge-building, and the thoughtful discussion of ideas.  Kids read and analyze poetry, biography, history, fiction, myths, and fables, and write copiously in a range of genres.

In kindergarten, titles include The Story of Ferdinand, Caps for Sale, and Corduroy; in third grade, they might read My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, The Whipping Boy, and The Wizard of Oz. In fourth grade, titles include The Phantom Tollbooth, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, and The Rescuers. We are also passionate about poetry and by the end of fourth grade scholars have read poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou, Victor Hugo, and many others.

Kidz Central Station:  What is parent involvement like at Success Academy schools?

Success Academy Parent: If you have chosen Success Academy, then you will be involved in your child’s education. Many parents attend Community Circle meetings, volunteer as class parents, chaperone field trips, or meet with teachers to discuss schoolwork. We can text or email teachers and expect quick responses. When my son was sick one day, his teacher called and texted updates from the nurse’s office. Parents are accountable for their child’s homework completion and attendance. For example, my son’s class has been rewarded for 10 consecutive days of no absences or tardies a few times this year. And that takes dedication from parents.

Kidz Central Station: What is the one thing parents who are considering Success Academy should know, more than anything else?

Success Academy: Success Academy schools are truly joyful, celebratory houses of learning were scholars feel seen and loved. We place a huge emphasis on fun and silliness, and have regular, themed “spirit” days when scholars and teachers dress up as Dr. Seuss characters, superheroes, or 100-year-olds (to celebrate the 100th day of school). Days our peppered with dance parties, wiggle breaks, and celebrations of scholars who have displayed exemplary ACTION values like kindness to others and curiosity. Each class develops a strong identity as a team and community, striving to outdo other homerooms with class cheers, dances, and skits at Community Circle each week. This premium on joy and engagement informs our entire academic and co-curricular program. As our CEO puts it, “We believe that to fall in love with learning, schools have to be incredibly joyful places where kids are engaged, puzzled, and inspired every day. For that reason we prioritize things like chess, science five days a week, field studies, art, soccer, and music.”

Success Academy is currently accepting applications. The lottery deadline for the 2018-19 school year is April 1, 2018. Learn more and apply here.