By Lucas Snarski
Three educators from the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society visited the College on Wednesday, March 6 to discuss an innovative approach to early childhood education in urban areas. Students and faculty from the school of education and other departments of the College came to the Education Building for a lecture, “From Cinder Blocks to Building Blocks,” to learn how this organization has created an arts-based curriculum that prepares young children for entry into New York City public schools.
The Brooklyn Kindergarten Society was founded in 1891 and now runs five pre-schools in low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Despite the name of the program, none of the schools are kindergartens, and the ages of the children range from two to five.
The schools offer full-day, full-year classes for children from low-income families. The program is funded by the government, private foundations and donors.
Takiema Bunche-Smith, the curriculum director of the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, described the history of the organization and her current role aiding instructors with their curriculums and showed the audience a video that further explained how BKS benefits the community. The goal of the program was described as “high quality education and family support services.”
Alexzia Plummer encouraged the audience to “get uncomfortable” by starting her presentation speaking rapidly in Spanish, which several members of the audience later claimed they were confused but engaged by Plummer, who teaches three-year-olds at Cleaveland Children’s Center in Crown Heights, spoke on how she and her students all come from different backgrounds, and the struggles and successes add to the teaching process. At BKS, Plummer said they emphasize “learning through play,” and explained her current curriculum, which includes activities like cooking every Friday, music and dance- along with reading and writing.
“It was really cool to see urban education modeled,” and that it was “refreshing to see urban education in a positive light,” said freshman urban education major, Amanda Mastronardi.
Laurel Wyatt, a teacher of four-year-olds at Sumner Children’s Center in Bed-Stuy, showed a slideshow of pictures of her current class and described how one theme was integrated throughout the curriculum to give students structure, a practice Plummer also used and one that is common in all of the program’s schools. Her class does dramatic storytelling on Monday, chess on Wednesday and music on Friday, all themed around Broadway.
At the end of the presentations, the audience expressed their interest in this approach to urban education for young children. BKS encourages children to explore what interests them while the teachers guide the learning process and provide another strong influence in the children’s lives. Both instructors also emphasized the role of parents, many of whom take an active role in their children’s education and work together with the teachers.
By the end of the discussion, the audience had learned about early urban education that was creative and innovative, an approach that prepares the young students for New York city public schools and allows them to learn in their own way.