Subscribe for FREE with:

Archive for the 'Education' Category

Photo by Teri Brennan

Lane Rosen, right, with Dewey’s student scientists. Photo by Teri Brennan

The waters around New York City were once home to a thriving population of oysters, which served an important ecological role. After virtually disappearing in the 20th century, several efforts are underway to bring the species back.

Students of John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X) Marine Science program are on the front-lines of the revitalization effort in Gravesend Bay, monitoring a collection of oyster beds off of the 69th Street Pier in Bay Ridge.

The school teamed up with the Harbor School’s Billion Oyster Project, one of the organizations leading the oyster reef restorations around New York Harbor. Oysters, which work like living water filters, are a vital component to improving the water quality around New York City, and the reefs they form protect the shoreline by weakening waves and provide habitat to other marine life.

They were once abundant in our area, but vanished almost completely in the early 20th century as pollution, over-harvesting, disease and environmental hazards grew. New York City was developing, and as the population boomed so did the amount of sewage.

One of the oyster cages monitored by Dewey students. (Photo by Teri Brennan)

One of the oyster cages monitored by Dewey students. (Photo by Teri Brennan)

Thanks to new regulations implemented in the late 20th Century, water quality has seen a dramatic improvement and researchers are finding that the area can once again support the oysters, which were not just an environmental helper, but a staple of the New York City economy as it developed.

Restoration efforts began on a sizable scale back in 2009. As their initial pilot sites showed signs of success, organizations backing them began finding new sources of funding to grow the project – ultimately creating the goal of bringing one billion oysters back to the harbor over the next 20 years.

The team of Dewey students were on-site in Bay Ridge last Wednesday, pulling in cages and doing their regular checkups. Their teacher, Lane Rosen, said it’s a great way to teach them about marine biology and ecology in a living laboratory in a hands-on way.

The cages are moored to the eco-dock attached to the pier, and students collect data on growth and development of the oysters, analyze the water and make observations that are sent to the Harbor School for further analysis.

We look forward to the point when the reefs are not only self-sustaining, but able to be harvested (in a population-sensitive way) for fresh, tasty slurping.



A middle school teacher at P.S. 163 in Bath Beach (109 Bay 14th Street) has started a fundraiser on the crowd-sourcing site (think Kickstarter for educators) to raise money for a new sound system in his disadvantaged school.

The teacher, Michael Wengler, who has been at the school for six years, depicts a talented student body whose performances are hampered by weak audio equipment. He writes:

We have a great group of students that come from low income families. They love music! The school community turns out for fantastic shows put on by our music students. The children have been invited to perform at some of our city’s top music halls! The students are very talented!… This equipment will help our chorus, solo singers, band, orchestra, solo instrumentalists, glee and guitar club be heard.

While those kids are good, Mr. Wengler said the equipment isn’t – you can’t even hear the performers when they’re using a microphone, he writes. The project costs, including optional donations to support, amount to $1,128.12 – of which $20 has been donated so far. The costs account for two audio racks, 400 feet of speaker cable, and two four space rack bags.

Mr. Wengler’s past fundraising initiatives raised money for student costumes as well as saxophone and clarinet reeds for the band and a professional piano tuner. This time he’s aiming high, asking for the biggest collective donation yet.

Back in my day (I say with my cane and 24 seasoned years of life experience) we choristers performed with crummy auditorium acoustics, and we liked it. But those were the days before newfangled crowdsourcing sites, and also our chorus was pretty bad.

This sounds like a genuinely good cause – to which I say, donate away! You’ll make a lot of future stars happy. From the looks of it, these kids have got talent to spare:

– Sam Shokin

Source: jeweledlion/Flickr

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman David Greenfield:

Councilman David G. Greenfield urges all parents with children turning age four in 2014 to take advantage of the expanded free Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) programs being offered by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) in local yeshivas and other community organizations this upcoming school year. Parents must apply for a spot before the June 26th enrollment deadline.

UPK is a free early education program available to all children in New York City who turn four years old in 2014.  The program is offered either as a half-day (two hours and 30 minutes) or full-day (six hours and 20 minutes). Half-day programs may take place in the morning or afternoon. UPK is offered at public schools but also at community based early childhood centers, such as yeshivas. Yeshivas across Borough Park and Flatbush have been offering limited UPK programs for years. This upcoming school year will bring more available seats to these neighborhoods than ever before.

Expanding New York City’s UPK programs was a key goal for Mayor de Blasio upon taking office this January. Before the program’s roll out, Councilman Greenfield worked closely with the mayor to ensure that the unique needs of the yeshiva community were met. The DOE is working to put the 300 million dollars the state government allocated to expanding UPK into action, creating programs for children at both public schools and other educational institutions such as yeshivas. Now is the time for parents to take advantage of this expanded opportunity for childcare and education.

“The benefits children receive when enrolled in early education programs are immeasurable. Universal Pre-Kindergarten provides the opportunity for children to develop and strengthen the educational foundations needed to succeed in upcoming school years,” said Councilman David G. Greenfield, “I strongly urge every parent to take advantage of this program for their children’s future and apply today.”

The open enrollment period for UPK will end on Thursday, June 26th. Parents can continue to enroll their children until programs are full, but those who enroll by this date will be more likely to receive their first choice placement. Most UPK providers admit students on a first-come, first-served basis, and some programs do reserve seats for children already enrolled at the centers as three-year-olds. Local organizations with open enrollment include Yeled V’Yalda located at 1257 38th Street.

Parents may find a full and current list of centers that offer UPK by calling 311 and providing their zip codes or street address or online at Once parents have chosen a UPK provider they can apply for placement online at  For more information or questions on how to enroll parents may call 311 or contact an Early Childhood Education Field Office.  The Brooklyn/Staten Island office contact is: Chris McKay at 718-643-1173 x or Carol Berg at

P.S. 97 (Source: Google Maps)

P.S. 97 (Source: Google Maps)

Students, parents and teachers converged in front of Highlawn Elementary School P.S. 97 (1855 Stillwell Avenue) on Monday in hopes of saving the job of acting principal Maria Famoso.

News 12 reports that the Department of Education is pushing the 18-year veteran of the school out the doors for, according to opponents of the decision, “no apparent reason.”

Famoso became acting principal in October, after serving as assistant principal for nearly two decades.

Now she’ll either be reassigned to another school or forced to retire.

“Why take her out? What has she done that you want to take her out?” one parent said to News 12.

Councilman Mark Treyger, a school teacher before taking office this January, has joined the fight, telling the station, “to simply leave people in the dark and not to have any type of communication or engagement, that’s unacceptable and I won’t stand for that.”

The Department of Education has not yet told the school community who will serve as principal in the fall.

IS 228 Principal Dominick D'Angelo and Bridg-iT founder Jeff Ervine

IS 228 Principal Dominick D’Angelo and Bridg-iT founder Jeff Ervine (Source:

I.S. 228 David. A Boody Junior High School (228 Avenue S) is the first school in the nation to deploy bullying prevention software designed to curb harassment within its hallways.

Using any web-enabled device, including phones, tablets and desktop computers, students, parents and teachers can now inform the school’s administrators of incidents of bullying and harassment.

The software was designed by Bridg-iT School, and keeps records of reports tipsters file so that school administrators can determine patterns of behavior. It also will inform the school’s principal the moment a report is filed. All reports are kept confidential.

Principal Dominick D’Angelo told the Daily News that it will help address one of the top problems in tackling bullying in the hallways – simply being aware of it.

“This is a life-saving and life-changing opportunity because you don’t know the full extent of bullying within a particular school,” said D’Angelo. “The biggest challenge we have is knowing when something is happening.”

He believes students will be more willing to file the report confidentially and discreetly through a phone or computer than by openly approaching an administrator.

That jives with what students at the school told CBS:

Many students at I.S. 228 David A. Boody in Gravesend, Brooklyn have said they are afraid to come to an authority figure or adult about bullying.

“If they see you going to, like, the dean’s office or (principal) Mr. D’Angelo’s office, you’d be called a snitch and be bullied too,” said eighth grader Paola Price, 13.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 2.27.55 PM

Public School 748. (Source: Google Maps)

Parents have begun a petition and sent out letters to politicians calling for the  Gifted and Talented program to not be discontinued as proposed at the Brooklyn School for Global Scholars, Public School 748.

The parents say they learned last week that would not offer the popular program next school year, according to the Daily News.

In a letter to the Bensonhurst Bean, parent Jennifer Kim wrote, “The DOE did not give us affected families or the school any ample warning of this decision.” She continued, “This decision will gravely affect numerous families with younger siblings of students attending [the program] as they will no longer be afforded the same quality of education and places undue stress and hardship as families will need to get multiple children to different school at the same start time.”

P.S. 748, located on 1664 Benson Avenue was lauded as being one of the best schools in New York City last year and parents like Kim believe that the removal of this program will lead to the school’s general quality decay.

Parents were told that the program was being due to overcrowding but Kim remained skeptical about this reason and asked, “Why cut a program in which students are obviously thriving and educators are performing at their peak?”

City school officials did not return the Daily News’ request for comment.

Students attending a high school on Governor’s Island have been coming to Coney Island this winter. And it wasn’t to cut school; it was to scuba dive in the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, cleaning the tanks of the beloved critters.

The school, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, is a public high school with a focus on marine science and technology. The program is part of an internship for nine students that allows them to scuba dive. But the waters around New York City are too cold in the winter so they use the Coney Island aquarium, according to the New York Times, where the students are tasked with cleaning the algae build-up in the tanks and general housekeeping chores.

The Times reports:

David DeNardo, the aquarium’s general curator, said that enlisting the students, who are paid minimum wage as part of the internship, was a good way to further the aquarium’s mission. Eventually, the aquarium and the school plan to develop a curriculum related to the Glover’s Reef exhibit, so that the students can better understand the species whose habitat they are keeping clean.

“It gives us an opportunity to teach these kids our conservation message,” Mr. DeNardo said. “We look at this as a chance to foster the next generation of conservationists.”

The students who dive are on the school’s professional diving track, where many of the students go on to study marine science, tourism and construction. When they first came to the school, they had no experience with diving but they learned about it, first in a classroom, then in a pool and finally in Jamaica Bay.

Seth Low JHS will be the site of a rally against the proposed co-locations on Friday. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Thursday that he will allow 36 public and charter schools to move into existing schools while giving the boot to other charter school co-location plans, prompting outrage from politicians and education advocates in Southern Brooklyn.

“I am very disappointed because the decision to co-locate Coney Island Prep with I.S. 281 does not square with the facts as we presented,” Councilman Vincent Gentile said in a press release that was cosigned by fellow councilmen David Greenfield and Mark Treyger. “I’ve said repeatedly that Cavallaro is already busting at the seams and there is no need for an elementary school in this area.”

Among the schools that de Blasio to see co-locations are Coney Island Prep (the charter school) with Cavallaro Intermediate School I.S. 281, and Success Academy Charter School with Seth Low Intermediate School I.S. 96.

The initiative to co-locate public schools with charter schools was created during the Bloomberg administration and according to the press release cosigned by the councilmen, many were hopeful that the co-locations would be reversed.

“Many of us who are part of the public school system were hopeful that with a new administration, we’d see a real, meaningful change that responded to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, as both I.S. 96 and I.S. 281 are still slated for charter co-locations in September 2014,” members of  Community Education Council District 20 said in a statement.

Besides the harsh words, the education council announced that they will be holding a rally this Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Seth Low I.S. 96 (99 Avenue P) in an attempt to pressure the de Blasio administration to reverse their decision. If the co-location goes through, critics argue,  schools that already have a large student body will be forced to take on more students from the charter schools, resulting in overpopulation.

“I am extremely disappointed in the decision to allow the co-location of a charter school at I.S. 96 (the Seth Low School) that our district does not need or want,” Greenfield writes in the press release. “This co-location will come at the expense of the school’s dedicated staff and hard-working students. . . This proposal does not take into account the students’ needs or the impact this will clearly have on this important school.”

Joining the ranks of critics is Assemblyman William Colton – his area covers parts of Gravesend and Bath Beach – who calls for Cavallaro Intermediate School I.S. 281 and Seth Low I.S. 96 to not co-locate with charter schools. In a press release, he said he is “extremely disappointed that Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Farina did not reverse the decisions” to co-locate the two schools in Southern Brooklyn.

For his part, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz  is commending Mayor de Blasio and Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina for withdrawing the co-location plan for John Dewey High School (50 Avenue X), one of the nine locations the de Blasio administration offered a reprieve. Critics of charter schools want every school’s co-location to be withdrawn.

“I intend to work with my colleagues to fight this decision tooth and nail,” Greenfield said in the press release.

Correction: The original version of this article mistakenly identified the charter school to be co-located with I.S 96 Seth Low. The correct name of the charter school is Success Academy Charter School, and the post has been amended. We regret any confusion this may have caused.

Make Your Mark Launches January 20th


Power to Learn, the education initiative of Cablevision’s Optimum, and the Smithsonian Channel have launched a new competition to celebrate Black History Month, and give an opportunity for high school students to affect real change in their communities.

The Make Your Mark contest invites students to submit creative video proposals for projects that could “incite positive change” at their schools and communities. The winning video will be awarded $2,500 to make the project a reality.

From the press release:

As part of the contest, students will view the Smithsonian Channel documentary Breath of Freedom that details the experiences of African-American GIs who helped rebuild Germany at the end of World War II and experienced equality for the first time overseas. Just as the soldiers featured in the documentary helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement, students can document their unique “mark” for positive change in their own video.

The “Make Your Mark” contest is open to all high school students in Optimum’s footprint within the tri-state area. Students should record and submit a creative and informative video (two minutes maximum) that explains their “mark,” why it should be chosen and how their school or community could benefit from the $2500 award. They will then share this video (via Facebook or Tweets) with friends and family to earn votes for the project. Deadline for entries is February 28.

Details and application form here.

I suggest a project telling our internet service providers like Optimum how important net neutrality is. Just sayin’.


The Chinese Dance Troupe from I.S. 228 David A. Boody Junior High School (228 Avenue S) took their act on the road, visiting seniors at the Lodge Senior Center (7711 18th Avenue) on January 29.

Reviews are in: the kids did great, the seniors loved the show and have asked the troupe to return, according to a school official who sent us the accompanying photos.


Next »