Donovan M. is a rising fifth-grader at BASIS Independent Brooklyn who also flexed his culinary muscles as a contestant on Season 5 of FOX's MasterChef Junior. His role on the show generated a great deal of excitement among our students, and it inspired our Manhattan admissions team to create an event for families with Donovan focusing on one of his favorite subjects - science. “Cooking is like chemistry, and that’s why I like science,” he recently told a reporter covering his appearance on MasterChef Junior.
Mary Riner is the Director of Community Relations for BASIS Independent McLean and current BASIS.ed parent. For this blog post, Ms. Riner focuses on her past as a "helicopter parent" and what has changed since her family joined the BASIS.ed network.
Notes from the BASIS.ed Braintrust
I am a recovering helicopter parent. I admit that the CJ, or Communication Journal, as a way of interfacing with the school takes a little getting used to, especially if you’re accustomed to online homework postings where your child’s whole education is at your fingertips. Those online systems make you feel in control. With a push or a prod, you can motivate your child into doing his homework so that he can boost his 88 average in English up to a 95.
Our unique Connections Class in grades 1-3 is a great example of how, starting at a young age, students bridge their content-rich studies with deep critical thinking skills, putting what they learn to the test in a scenario-based project learning block. One of the goals of Connections, which meets once a week for 85 minutes, is to literally “connect” the curriculum, showing how each subject relates to the other, even if it doesn’t seem to do so on the surface.
We are excited to unveil to you the fruits of a couple of non-stop days in October - our BASIS Independent videos! Over the course of December and early January, we shared with you the first two videos in the series, the BASIS Independent Parent Video and the BASIS Independent Faculty Video.
Here's a refresher on the project: Over the course of three days, we filmed three separate videos: one about the family experience with our school, the teacher perspective on what it's like to work here, and the student perspective on what it is like to learn here. We love these videos and hope you do, too.
They are raw, spur of the moment, unscripted reflections of what it's like to be a part of the BASIS Independent community.
They breathe life into Education Redefined and demonstrate what happens when you combine an accelerated, rigorous curriculum with exceptional, expert educators in an environment of support and deep respect for the art and science of learning.
Given our program's reputation of academic excellence, it is all too easy for familes to think of us as "that school for kids who are good at math and science".
It couldn't be further from the truth. BASIS Independent Brooklyn students are artists, musicians, linguists, skateboarders, athletes, dancers and more. They all just happen to be part of a well-rounded, accelerated learning environment.
Not only do we value all disciplines equally, but as a program rooted in the liberal arts, we teach the full spectrum of liberal arts with the fervor and depth seen in an advanced math or science class.
Did you know that our students take performing arts beginning in PreK? As a mandatory part of our curriculum from PreK- grade 4, students are given the option to dive even deeper in to the performing arts with a daily elective option starting in 6th grade. Many of these classes take place in our brand new 300 seat theater.
We invited our two performing arts teachers, Ms. Annie Crowley and Ms. Elizabeth Simmons to help bring to life our comprehensive performing arts program:
What is the purpose of the drama program at BASIS?
Ms. Crowley (AC): Our drama program aims to foster artistic and emotional development in our students. Skills are honed in physical and verbal communication, creative interpretation, imaginative play, and abstract thought. For me, the most important aspect of what we do is in the cultivation of empathy and global curiosity by learning to see ourselves in the lives and experiences of others. Here at BASIS Independent, the drama program works in conjunction with the other fine arts disciplines as a creative and emotional outlet for students while also posing exciting academic challenges.
Ms. Simmons (ES): We build skills that are useful both on and off the stage! An experiential curriculum starts with the "Tools in the Actors Toolbox", the Voice, Body, Imagination, Concentration, Collaboration. Students build on these skills creating scenes, original plays, and one acts.
How is it different than at other schools?
(ES): Practically speaking, we both came to BASIS Independent with backgrounds in professional theatre (as actors, directors, and dramaturges) in addition to our work as arts educators, giving us both a wide range of resources and experiences from which to draw. We both have a background in Devising Theatre, which means that the stories and plays on stage incorporate students' own ideas and experiences. This helps create a richer experience where everyone is engaged!
(AC): The primary difference that I see in our drama program is our broad, multi-pronged scope. Beginning in Kindergarten all the way into the high school years, drama is a present and integral aspect of the curriculum. As we are able to extend over so many grade levels, we are really able to craft a rich and comprehensive program, exposing students to aspects of the field where we would most likely not have the chance with a leaner schedule. As a teacher, it feels wonderful to have such support and confidence from BASIS Independent in the purpose and value of our subject. I feel so lucky here!
On April 20, 2015, the BASIS.ed network celebrated what we consider to be one of the most salient validations of our academic programs we’ve been honored with as a community to date: The Washington Post’s 2015 Ranking of America’s Most Challenging High Schools featured BASIS.ed schools prominently at the top:
A couple of days ago, the New York Times published an article about parent teacher conferences in New York City. These conferences, which one interviewed parent describes as akin to the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, are worth really considering. Is the way most schools hold these conferences in the best interests of all involved? Here's the BASIS Independent take below:
BASIS Independent Schools do not hold formal Parent /Teacher Conference days. This practice can surprise some parents. What parent does not want the opportunity to talk with their child’s teachers about their progress, challenges and victories? What teacher does not want to reassure parents that their children are in safe hands?
It seems so simple: set aside a day and let the adults talk. But there, embedded in that brief injunction, lie the two major problems with Parent / Teacher Conference days.
The nightmare of the schedule.
I think of these formal days as a leftover from an era of one-size-fits-all education in which schools can seem to function like mid-twentieth century factories: “Dear Parent…you want to talk with your child’s teacher? You are welcome of course, but it must be on this day, at this time, and you will have 7 minutes before the production line moves to the next parent. The production line is sacrosanct and never stops.”
As for the teacher, consider that which is asked of them: “Dear colleagues, you will prepare to speak to all of your parents from morning to night about their children. We have provided breaks in your day, but of course parents will be late and conversations will run over the allotted 7 minutes, so bring some Kind Bars. Do not raise any genuinely troublesome or puzzling issues about a kid, as they require time. You have 7 minutes. Make it work.”
Behind the apparent openness of the Parent / Teacher Conference day is a subtle message from school to parent: “This is the deal: we hold this day for you and it is YOUR DAY! We all hate it as we are fried by lunch, which we never get, and there are hours more to go before we sleep. For the rest of the year try not to bother us too much as we are all very busy.”
This new three-part series offers a closer look at one of the hallmarks of a BASIS Independent education: The Senior Research Project.
Inspired by the blissful feeling of uncovering connections, our blog Eureka! Brooklyn is about sharing moments that capture the essence of what it is to be a BASIS Independent student, teacher, administrator, or family.