Posted by L.J. Dutchover
Last night I attended the Kindergarten Fair at the YMHA on Nagle Avenue; we are starting to investigate choices for our daughter’s elementary education now, and she is only three. In order to navigate the system, one needs time to visit the schools and to learn what might be a good match for the child.
Evidently this is a yearly event sponsored by the Y for neighborhood parents interested in learning about the kindergarten options available to their children. I was happy to see a list of fifteen schools that were represented at the fair. When I arrived, I spent some time walking around and meeting the representatives. At about 6:40 pm, all of them took a seat at a long table at the front of the hall and spoke briefly about what made their schools special. Thirteen of the fifteen schools on the list had a representative speak. Only one school on the list had no table and no representative.
As a parent, the information presented was both informative and eye opening. Of the fifteen schools, two were zoned public schools, six were District 6 public schools of choice, two were Manhattan Citywide Gifted and Talented schools that only accept (by lottery) children who score a 99 on the achievement test given to all Gifted and Talented applicants, one was Hunter College Elementary School, which accepts 50 children (25 girls, 25 boys) each year in kindergarten from all of Manhattan, and then there were a few other schools like the Special Music School (P.S. 859) and two private schools.
As each representative spoke, I was interested to hear what “extras” the school offers. It was repeated over and over, “We offer music, theatre, visual arts, and science at our school.”
My question is this: since when is science an “extra?” I know budget cuts have been cruel to our public education system in the past years. I understand how schools (even in affluent suburbs) have had to cut the arts, though I believe wholeheartedly that arts education is a necessity for all children. But science???? Why is this allowed to be cut?
As far as I’m concerned, a school that doesn’t offer science to its youngest students is doing a disservice to the community. Science is as vital as reading, writing and mathematics. It should never be seen as an “extra.”
I left last night with lots to consider regarding a good placement for our daughter, and an appropriate education for all children. I wonder what can be done to make sure all students at the elementary level are being exposed to appropriate science education and getting a strong foundation in skills that will help them to question, investigate and explore the world around them.
(As I was thinking about this, I found many resources on the value of science in early childhood and elementary education. This link provides resources for teachers interested in science in the early childhood classroom and has some links that parents could use too: http://www.pbs.org/teachers/earlychildhood/articles/science.html)