Wednesday, 17 June 2015

#EdVentures Part 4: Williamsburg Northside School in Brooklyn

Their neighbourhood
This week I was fortunate to connect with educators from Williamsburg Northside School in Brooklyn. Again, being a connected educator made it easier. Kendra, the Associate Director of Admissions, showed me around their beautiful school. I believe every context is different and you really can't replicate any school because your students and colleagues are unique. What works for one school may not work in your context. What I do believe is that from listening and learning from each other, we can learn, adapt, adopt, and develop our knowledge. Then take small risks upon implementation.

At Wenona, K-2 (Woodstock) is Reggio inspired, so I was grateful to receive an opportunity to observe another Reggio inspired school. What I learnt is that their teaching and learning philosophy correlate with mine beautifully. They’re committed to creating an experience that views every child as a strong, capable and powerful individual who is an active participant in their learning. Each child develops and builds on their thoughts, ideas and questions already established. True engagement results when internal motivation is tapped. They strive to create a community in which all children feel safe, secure and supported to share, explore, and question. Students persevere, think critically, create and falter when necessary.

Comprehension Strategies
They have approximately 350 students, from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens. With 90 full-time and part-time educators, the staff are supported by a team of administrators. Williamsburg Northside Schools currently has three campuses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Infant & Toddler Centre, Pre-school and the new Lower School and Pre-kindergarten building, which I visited. It is a brand new nine-story space with a regulation-sized gymnasium, a full-floor indoor play space, science laboratory, and cafeteria. I met the head of the Lower School, Tara Mastin and as I walked into her office, I knew we would hit it off because on the table was Gary Stager’s book, Invent to Learn
Tara, me & Kendra
I was happy to learn how documentation can incorporate technology, thus student learning may not be visible at first glance. These were some of the topics we shared with each other-
  • Project based learning, design thinking and the future
  • The integration of social studies (HSIE)
  • Literacy and numeracy programs, resources and educator gurus- Marilyn Burns, Singapore Math, Words Their Way, Fountas & Pinnell, Lucy Calkins, TERC math. 
  • The accountability of public and private schools and the Common Core Curriculum
  • Teacher-student ratios
  • Scheduled collaborative time for homeroom and specialists teachers to plan for the subjects of art, science, music and Spanish
  • Structure is needed to facilitate student learning. Not "let’s see what outcomes are achieved".
  • The parents’ expectations aligning with the school's philosophy.
Classroom themed
As Tara said, we could have talked all day. There are those people you meet and instantly you know that you are both on the same wavelength.

Gratitude Journal-

Derrick Gay-for helping organise the visit
Kendra & Tara- for spending time sharing your knowledge and experiences at a very busy time of year.
My taxi driver-for sharing your knowledge and school experiences with me...Priceless.


  1. Wow! What a great experience Andrea. It sounds like you found an educational soul mate as well as participated in rich professional dialgogue.well done!

    1. I had a wonderful time talking with Tara. Hopefully the conversation will continue.

  2. Love the reflection that learning is not always visible. A challenge and something magical to look forward to!

    1. Thanks for reading Daniel. My thinking has been challenge and supported. Wonderful experience.