Our Makerspace is Open for Business!

By now, most of our classes have had an opportunity to go to the new makerspace. Andrew and Monika, of Koko Open Source, are facilitating a program that has allowed our students to jump right into the design thinking process. The first challenge, for all grades, is to design a chair using various materials.

I spoke with class 4-308 after their first session and they were very excited to tell me all about their experience. They expressed how much they enjoyed working as a team, the permission to make mistakes and then have the opportunity to figure out solutions. I asked how that process relates to their other school work and one student said, “It’s just like in math. We have to figure out the best strategy.”

The objective of our makerspace is to provide experiences that reinforce how we believe kids learn best. We want our students to develop collaborative skills in an immersive environment that encourages risk-taking, creativity and hands-on exploration. In other words, we want our students to be courageous, curious and caring.

Here are some pictures of class 1-205 designing and testing chairs-

The Case For Loving- February's Book of the Month

Our school’s Equity Team was tasked with selecting books for our students to read during Black History Month. We chose The Case for Loving to expose our students to an important story that many have never heard. Love, perseverance and an understanding of the law are powerful weapons against hate.

This month, our classes will also explore historical figures in African American culture. Our Equity team, in collaboration with our teachers, chose books that highlight aspects of history that we hope provide new insights for our students. *(Grade book list below)

The Case for Loving. By Selina Alko and Sean Qualls-

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.
This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state's laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won!

If you would like a copy, here’s a link to Terrace Books-

https://www.communitybookstore.net/book/9780545478533

Grade Level Book Selections-

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop: Kindergarten

You Should Meet- Mae Jemison : 1st grade

The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath (Amazing Scientists): 2nd grade

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History: 3rd grade

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker: 4th grade

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat: 5th grade

All are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold

Our January book of the month is, All are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold. We are lucky to have the Penfold family in our school community and even more fortunate to be able to share Alexandra’s work with our students. Earlier in the school year, Alexandra read All are Welcome to our first grade classrooms. This book is so compelling and engaging that we wanted everyone to have a chance to use it as a mentor text and to help guide rich conversations about diversity and inclusivity.

Here is a link to Alexandra’s website: https://www.alexpenfoldbooks.com/all-are-welcome/

“Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other's traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.”

If you would like to purchase All Are Welcome, hop over to Terrace Books or use this link to visit their online store- https://www.communitybookstore.net/book/9780525579649

I look forward to updating you on our progress this year at February’s “Coffee with the Principal” and at our next Family Friday on February, 8th!

Grade level assemblies have begun!

This week, we had our first monthly assemblies. Kindergarten and first grade had theirs on Thursday and the second and third graders had theirs today. Fourth and fifth grade are scheduled for next Friday. These assemblies provide us with a great opportunity for community building. At each event, we discuss the 3Cs (Courage, Curiosity and Caring) and have students perform or showcase their school work. This week, our performances included singing, dancing, musical instruments, jokes and magic. We even had an incredible science experiment.

Ms. Graham’s class performed a skit, that they developed, based on our November diversity book, One by Kathryn Otoshi. Check out the video!

Social Emotional Learning at PS154

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We are continuing to embed Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) into our school day. Implementation of the Responsive Classroom program is ongoing. At this time, all of our classrooms participate in Responsive Classroom “Morning Meetings”, which are a vital component of the framework. As part of the Responsive Classroom program we have also begun to incorporate energizers for refocusing, quiet time after lunch and closing circles.

Morning meetings are important because they establish a routine that promotes emotional safety and class community. Teachers determine the morning meeting focus based on their daily schedule and topics that the students bring up. Throughout the week, classes discuss school-wide behavior expectations framed around the character traits of being “Courageous, Curious and Caring.”  We call this the 3Cs. By the end of the year, we will have created clear rules for the various locations around the school and a consistent language to teach and reinforce positive behavior.

At the same time, we are supporting the emotional health and safety of all students through the city’s “Respect for All” initiative. This initiative aims to reduce incidents of bullying, harassment, intimidation and discrimination.  Mr. Buckley was recently trained as a “Respect for All” liaison, and the leadership team has spoken to every classroom room in order to introduce students to the initiative. School-wide assemblies touching upon these themes will begin next week and continue at points throughout the year. In addition, we are very excited to put together the school’s first Justice League Peer Mediation Team. The students have been submitting logo designs for the team and are thrilled to be a part of this work. The process of selecting students will begin in the coming weeks.

Our Student Equity team just held its second monthly meeting. The team consists of 8 fifth grade students who have volunteered to be a part of the district wide dialogue around race and equity in schools. The students have begun to share more about their own identities, and we have had meaningful debate about how equality and equity can be defined. Students will play an integral role in determining how are messaging will be shared throughout the school. The student Equity Team will work closely with the staff and parent Equity Team, which also meets monthly. This team has been working toward creating a vision around equity and developing an action plan to support teachers and students. In the classroom, our diversity initiative includes weekly lessons on topics ranging from bullying to race and identity.


We will be selecting a book of the month that will address these important issues. Our first book is, One by Kathryn Otoshi-

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“Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.”

Next month we are reading, Red- A Crayon Story  by Michael Hall

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“A blue crayon mistakenly labeled as "red" suffers an identity crisis in this picture book by the New York Times–bestselling creator of My Heart Is Like a Zoo and It's an Orange Aardvark! Funny, insightful, and colorful, Red: A Crayon's Story, by Michael Hall, is about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way.”


Science Exploration

Throughout each month, our classes will visit Prospect Park and the neighboring vicinity to enhance their science investigations. Our proximity to such an incredible resource will not only help science concepts come alive but will also keep our students moving in the fresh air. Learning by doing is a priority at PS154 and is the central objective of our instructional focus for the year. For example, some of our kindergarten and first grade classes visited Prospect Park for a nature walk and practiced observing the environment and documenting their findings. And our fifth graders practiced how to use sun dials in our schoolyard.

Here are some pictures of their recent adventures -

Instructional Focus

Every year, schools develop an instructional focus that guides planning around professional development, teacher feedback and conversations around pedagogy. An instructional focus helps to align priorities and move a school community towards the goals established in the Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP).

2018-2019 Instructional Focus- "We will plan learning experiences that demonstrate responsiveness to our students' individual strengths." 

Our instructional focus will result in students experiencing opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of content in a variety of ways. For example, second grade teachers, Laura Varriale and Rosemary Graham (and some parent volunteers) facilitated an activity that got students working together to build Dutch farmhouses out of cardboard and paper. Students spent time exploring the historical period, visiting sites, sketching and ultimately collaborating with a team to create a final project.

Families can reinforce learning at home by engaging in conversations that help with meta cognitive development:

What did you like about this project?

How did you solve problems that came up?

Can you tell me about the steps you took?

Meta-cognition - https://childmind.org/article/how-metacognition-can-help-kids/

Check out the student designers hard at work-

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Safety at PS 154

What is a School Safety Plan?

At the beginning of each school year, all schools develop a School Safety Plan. The plan outlines the procedures that the school uses every day and in cases of emergency to provide a safe and secure environment in which effective teaching and learning take place. Each plan is approved by the Office of Safety and Youth Development and NYPD. In order to ensure safety for all students and staff, the specific emergency response plans and procedures of the School Safety Plan must remain confidential.

The School Safety Plan addresses the following major areas:

  • School/Program/Academy Information: This section lists the staff members, hours of operation, chain of command, class schedules, dismissal schedules, extra-curricular activities, and use of special facilities (i.e. swimming pools).

  • Special Needs Students: This section identifies students with special mobility needs and ways of addressing those needs.

  • Medical Emergency Response Information: This section outlines procedures for the dissemination of health information of individual students, implementing health recommendations, and for maintaining and accessing health supplies and trained medical personnel. It also outlines the use and storage of Automatic External Defibrillators (AED).

  • School Safety Personnel Procedures and Assignments: This section includes visitor control procedures, security scanning (where applicable), and protocols for responding to specific disaster or emergency conditions such as fire, sheltering-in, bomb threat, suspicious packages, hazmat, shooting, and kidnapping.

Who is on the School Safety Plan Committee?

Chancellor’s Regulation A-414 requires that the following individuals are required to serve on a school’s Safety Committee: The principal, the UFT Chapter leader, the PT/PTA president (or designee), the school’s Level III School Safety Agent (or designee), the custodial engineer, the dietician (or designee), the NYPD commanding officer (or designee) of the local precinct, and a student representative.


School Safety Agents

School Safety Agents, who are part of the NYPD, work in conjunction with the school administrators to help maintain order and safety. School Safety Agents have the following responsibilities:

  • Respond to immediate security situations

    • Help school personnel maintain discipline and order Follow visitor control procedures

  • Patrol areas within and immediately surrounding the school building Prevent intruders from entering the school building

  • Report serious incidents to the school administration and School Safety Division

Respect For All (RFA)- Our liaison is Michael Buckley.

What You Can Do About Bullying…

…If Your Child is the Target

  1. Report the incident to your school's Respect for All (RFA) liaison(s) and/or school administration.

  2. Ask for the incident number from school administration for follow up. This is also known as Online Occurrence Reporting System (OORS) number.

  3. The school will investigate and must tell the parent or guardian of the target what they find. If needed, the child may be referred for support services.

  4. If the investigation finds that a student—or students—have been bullying or harassing your child, the school will follow the process described in the Discipline Code.

Discipline Code

The discipline code encourages schools to develop proactive strategies in addressing the social emotional needs of students.  For each behavior infraction the school as a number of recommended interventions that range from conferences with a counselor to classroom removals.  At PS.154, we believe that a combination of social emotional learning in the classroom, proactive planning for more intense behaviors and a menu of logical consequences will help to create a safe learning environment for all.

https://cdn-blob-prd.azureedge.net/prd-pws/docs/default-source/default-document-library/discipline-code-kindergarten-grade-5-english.pdf?sfvrsn=ffcb69f5_59

Mandated reporting (Child abuse)

All NYCDOE employees are mandated reporters.  If a staff member has concerns about the safety and welfare of any child they are legally responsible to call the Administration for Child Services (ACS). Once a report is initiated ACS will either take the case or make recommendations to the school

Cell Phones

Students are permitted to bring cell-phones to school. Please read through our policy and return the signed contracts.

General Response Protocols (GRP)-

All NYCDOE schools are required to perform evacuation drills, lock down and missing student drills throughout the year.  The GRP description page is attached.

Transitions in the building-

When travelling to and from the bathroom, water fountain, nurse’s office or any other location within the school K-2 students are always in pairs or threes. Students in grades 3-5 will travel alone but with a hall pass.

Door Alarms-

All exterior doors have alarms. Staff are assigned times to check that door alarms are activated periodically throughout the day.

Double Parking

Please don’t double park.  Blocking the sidewalk creates a safety issue for kids crossing the street and school buses getting close enough to our school for kids to enter/exit without having to walk in the street.