|Located on the site of a formerCatholic School, the|
building has beautiful architectural
School Director Diana Schesinger, a graduate of Bank Street College, is credited by her colleagues for holding true to the educational mission of the school. And, true to the inclination of progressive schools, rather than defining herself what progressive education is, she put the question to the faculty in advance of my visit. The faculty boiled its definition to three core principles: teaching should be experiential; the program should center on the interests of the child; and assessment should be qualitative, focused on a deep understanding of each child's developmental growth.
Diana touched on an oft-repeated theme I have encountered in my many discussions with progressive educators around the country. That is, the relationship schools have with time. Are we creating the time for teachers to respond to spontaneous learning opportunities? Is there enough time for teachers to discuss children and understand them deeply? Are we carving out the time for children to play and discover the world independently? That we are so driven by the daily schedule can impede the pursuit of open-ended experiences where some of the deepest learning can take place. It is a common lament, but the folks at Greene Hill are doing their best to accommodate this need for teachers and students.
Students studying immigration, re-created the immigration center at Ellis Island after a field trip to the historical site. They learned of the long waits and the atmosphere of fear that often permeated the center. Later, when the students were creating the experience at school, the impact on their learning was profound. They understood the constraints placed upon the people waiting for the judgement on whether or not they would enter the country. It was a stirring learning experience that they understood on a deeper level than if the concepts and information had been presented in an abstract second-hand way.
There is a vibrant and lively spirit at Greene Hill. The parents, who understand they are pioneers, are supporting the school enthusiastically. That the school is firmly rooted in its core beliefs and values, makes all the difference to parents wanting a responsive school for their children. The kids are happy, they are learning, and they want to come to school every day. And though they will face many challenges along the way, these courageous women working alongside a gifted faculty, are building a progressive school that stands to make a big impact; not only on the Brooklyn community, but on the broader educational community. We'll watch their journey with great interest.