The whole school thing can be so mysterious. We read all we can, we go on tours, we listen to other parents, but in the end what do we really know about the different school choices we have for our children? We have a vague sense. Is that really how we want to make such a vital decision? It's frustrating and a little bit scary that we can't find out more specific information and have something a little bit more concrete to choose a school in NYC.
What do they really do at Hunter anyway? Is it really that different? Is it worth all the torture to get in? How about private schools? What do they do there that's worth $30,000 a year? Does a G&T class do anything different that an average class? Mommy Poppins is going to try to get to the heart of the matter.
We're starting out with Hunter. Below we have, described by a Hunter parent with the help of her child, exactly what they are doing this year in the second grade. We will be following up with curricula from some other schools too. Hopefully this will give parents some concrete information to make informed decisions. If you would like to submit information about your school please email Mommy Poppins.
Typical Day in 2nd Grade at Hunter College Elementary School
Read or write in journal until attendance (5 -10 minutes). Spelling tests on Mondays (with words ranging from pushcart to Renaissance). Writing and reading every morning, except Fridays when they usually have assembly, where different classes do presentations (climate change has been a hot topic) or there is an adult guest speaker and also the "humanitarian award" to a student recognized for doing something really kind. They do various writing assignments, sometimes worksheets based on a story the whole class reads. They have study projects where they work alone to research, then in teams to present. They did birds early in the year, and just finished African American scientists which they presented at all-school assembly as skits where they told about themselves (in character as the person they studied). The rest of the morning is two different periods consisting of math or specials. They have an hour for lunch which includes recess, then two more periods. Homework focuses on reading assignments, journal writing, math worksheets and script practice.
They seem to have two distinct match curricula. 3 times/ week they have math in the classroom - that is where they are currently working on fractions (current homework has a bunch of fractions where you have to find equivalents - ie, 1/4=3/12, or greater/less thans: 1/5 > 1/7.) The other track is taught twice a week at a lab run by the math specialist. I can't tell that the two maths are integrated. In lab they are working on tangrams now, and have touched on other topics including x & y coordinates and angles.
The Specials: some they go as a whole class, others they split in half & rotate - ie, only half go to studio or art or cultural arts at a time, and music is small group once/week.
Music: 2xweek, once as whole group. They have been working on keyboards but not exclusiveley. They spend lots of time in advance of holiday concerts preparing songs from various places and languages.
Cultural Arts: half group, once/ weeks - This is hard to define - sometimes it's focused on movement, other times on acting, sometimes just free play, and other times doing something more like it sounds, studying various cultures. They are currently working on a play the teacher is writing.
Chess: once/week but this is skipped or there is often a sub for the chess teacher who is revered but unreliable.
PE: twice/week: this is uninspired from all I can tell - very traditional stuff, and lack of sensitivity to emotional stuff - sounds like when I was a kid, down to picking teams with the slowest kid always picked last.
Art and Studio: each once/week split into groups. Art is mostly 2D, studio is clay & wood working. Both are good, the art teacher is exceptional.
Computer: they didn't have a teacher until recently - they just started again, and seem to be touching on very basic explanations of things like megabytes and pixels. Last year they had a program I can't remember the name of that seems to prep for fundamental programming ideas. This curriculum is currently in the works.
Spanish/French: twice/week - in 2nd grade kids choose which language, after a year of each. In french they are working on a play, in Spanish, they recently finished a presentation on grocery shopping
Science: twice/week: they did a curriculum on sound, went to a hospital to see equipment used for testing hearing. The current focus is bats.
Library: once a week - studying dewey decimal system, librarian always reads a short book, or part from a longer book. Every once in a while authors come in to read.
Social Studies: three periods/week - studying New york City. Parents are coming in presenting different subjects relating to New York on Fridays. Here's the schedule:
December 8 A Native American Meal,
January 5 and January 12 The Maps of New York City
January 26 and February 2 Poetry and the Harlem Renaissance
February 9 Cityscapes with Rooftops and Clouds
February 16 Musical NYC Streets
March 2 Art Project with a Lower East Side emphasis
March 5 Identifying the Age of NYC Buildings with Roman
Numerals (this is scheduled during math)
March 16 The World of the Lower East Side (in conjunction
with a visit to the Tenement Museum)
March 23 The Pushcart War
April 13 The Trees of Central Park
April 20 Green Mapping
April 27 NYC Trees and Green Mapping
May 4 Neighborhood Architectural Walk
May 11 The Stadiums of New York
Also, a visit from the Urban Park Rangers is also in the works.