A sense of community is core to the Barrow Street experience. We believe a solid educational foundation incorporates the community, promotes responsibility and develops character. Our community engagement curriculum reinforces the values of honesty, responsibility, respect and kindness and allows children to understand how they play a part in making the world a better place.
The goal is simultaneously simple and complex: empowering our children to be difference makers in communities both large and small, now and in the future.
Our approach to service means that children see the adults in their lives, parents and teachers, modeling the way a caring community behaves. Values are discussed with parents at workshops and actively shared through community projects and classroom activities. We hope to empower our children to make a difference and to teach environmental values and healthful habits that will stay with them for life. As preserving our environment takes center stage in headlines across the world, Barrow Street teaches our students about preserving their environment for the future. By connecting these abstract ideas to concrete and hands-on activities, we present these ideas in ways our young students can understand.
Inherent to our belief is the expectation that children take an active role in our community. This includes:
- Understanding and attending to the needs of others
- Accounting for our individual and collective impact on the world around us
- Leveraging our strengths to make positive change
We do this by providing children with real, meaningful, relevant and developmentally-appropriate opportunities to be active and responsible members of our community.
- Classroom jobs provide authentic responsibility for children
- Helping other classmates (e.g. fetching band-aids and ice-packs when a classmate is hurt)
- Nurturing relationships with other organizations in our building and in our neighborhood
We incorporate many eco-friendly initiatives into every day school life, such as:
- Environmentally-based curriculum, field trips and projects
- Recycling and reusing home and classroom materials
- Planting and cooking with spices and vegetables in our rooftop garden
- Taking nature walks through the botanical gardens and parks
- Learning how to bring “waste free” lunches
Ultimately, from the experiences provided through Community Engagement initiatives, we expect children:
- To grow as compassionate people and active agents of change
- To put the values of empathy and responsibility into action
- To learn about others and the society we live in
- To reflect on their own experiences, attitudes and actions
Additionally, in past years some of our service learning initiatives have included:
- Service Learning Guide: Together with GenerationOn, we developed a service learning guide. It includes service learning lesson plans we created and implemented in our classrooms.
- Annual Pajama Drive: Children collect pajamas to be delivered to children in need, most of whom live in group homes and shelters, by the non-profit, Pajama Program. Children wore their pajamas to school in a united show of caring for the less fortunate and teachers discussed how our students were helping other children by giving them pajamas. Our community generously donated 175 pairs of new pajamas and a local business, operated by a BSNS family, made a matching donation on behalf of our community for a combined total of 350 pairs of pajamas.
- Hurricane Sandy Collection: In response to Hurricane Sandy, our families quickly organized a way for BSNS families to contribute to the relief effort. Our parent service learning committee collected urgently needed items, including new and gently used blankets, winter coats and flashlights, for distribution at the Greenwich House Senior Center and a charter school in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
- Smiles for Seniors: In an effort to teach our students about generosity, we collected coins from our community to purchase theater tickets for the seniors at the Senior Center at Greenwich House. Teachers and children participate in discussions about community, generosity and children enjoyed filling the jars (with an additional math activity of counting all the coins)! In conjunction, our Pre-K students made a trip to the Senior Center to sign a few holiday songs together.
- UNICEF School in a Box: Beginning with a discussion about schools in other communities, this project seeks to help schools in less fortunate communities. Children discuss the physical items that they use in their classroom and discover what other schools may need as well! Our whole community comes together to purchase school boxes for communities in need.
- Greenwich House Senior Center – Traveling Notebook: One of our Pre-K classes paired with a senior from the Greenwich House Senior Center for several interview sessions. Over the course of several visits, the children established a relationship with this senior and included activities such as reading their favorite stories (our senior brought stories from his childhood and the children brought their favorite ones), discussing their favorite toys (our senior brought in his favorite childhood stuffed animal) and portrait drawing of each other. Throughout these sessions, the children prepared questions for their senior visitor. Our parents also participated in this event by attending these discussions and documenting the process. The end result was a compilation of this experience, complete with pictures and descriptions.
- Soles4Souls Shoe Drive: By collecting used shoes that are delivered to communities that need them, by non-profit, Soles4Souls, children explore the various ways that shoe materials can be re-used after they have grown out of them!
- Waste Free Lunches: We encourage “waste-free lunches” by using packaging that can be washed and reused – no baggies, foil or plastic. According to the New York State Department of Conservation, a child taking a disposable lunch to school creates an average of 67 pounds of trash per school year! With over 53 million children eating lunch in schools across the country everyday, we want to do our part to help reduce the waste.