Posted in BNS love, community, field trip

Dean Street!

A trip conceived, planned, and executed by John and Sophia. John wanted the kids to learn everything that goes into running a restaurant, including the work of front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house staff. What a great idea!

Hanging out

Time for lunch! But first, they have to learn how to work like Dean Street staff…
When your restaurant is staffed by eager fourth graders
Taking orders from their partners
It was fun to use little server notepads and codes
And learn how to set the table

Learning how to use the register to put in an order
Chicken and french fries
Double-checking an order
They got to use the soda gun

Here comes the food!

How do you know which order is which?
Check the check! This one’s for Xavier
This is what happens when you have a 1:1 server:guest ratio

Uh oh, serving mishap for Carma
Dancing all the way to the table
The lunch-time rush

A toast to John, Sophia, and the wonderful staff of Dean Street. Thank you for this wonderful learning experience!

Posted in field trip, science

Gowanus Betterment Projects

The lovely, long-suffering Gowanus

Earlier this year, we visited the Gowanus Canal with Barbara and thought about how it has changed over the last 400 years. The kids were sad about how dirty, polluted, and downtrodden our local waterway is. After a year of learning about water and environmental issues, they were ready to work on a small part of the solution!

Their year-end science projects are “floating islands” to help the Gowanus. At this year’s Ecorama celebration, our class presented their “floating island” prototypes.

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These projects were inspired by a visit to look at Balmori Architect’s GrowOnUs island in the Gowanus (pictured above, and originally assumed by the kids to be a “trash island”).

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The Oyster Outhouse, a design by Sebastian and Ezra
Ecorama Floating Island, by Evelyn
Portable Forest, by Max

Thank you Emmy for the Ecorama pictures; thank you Barbara for teaching us science!

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Posted in field trip, science

Ridgewood Reservoir

Better late than never! Early spring trip to the Ridgewood Reservoir. Built in the 1800s, Ridgewood Reservoir still played an important part in keeping Brooklyn residents hydrated as recently as 1959. Originally, water that was stored in the reservoir traveled by aqueduct to steam-powered pumping stations!

Here are teams of engineers trying to design a successful aqueduct using straws and tape.


Lola’s face = the thrill of success!


Once they got their little aqueducts to work, the kids banded together to build a GIGANTIC aqueduct on the stairs.

Continue reading “Ridgewood Reservoir”

Posted in field trip, time travel

Nearby but long ago: our New Amsterdam walking trip


Part of the children’s work in social studies this year is to project their imaginations across time and space. This includes being able to interpret and extrapolate from 2-dimensional maps, and integrating what we see on a flat map with our experiences in the real world. Today was an exercise in map-reading and imagination! We traveled to lower Manhattan for an Alex-guided walking tour. We wanted the children to walk the perimeter of New Amsterdam so they would have a sense of how teeny the original city was. We also wanted the kids to discover that there are still some clues telling the story of New Amsterdam, if you know where to look.


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Do you see the outline of New Amsterdam in the map of present-day lower Manhattan?

We started our walking tour at the former site of Fort Amsterdam. This was the administrative quarters for the Dutch in New Netherland. For Amsterdam looks an awful lot like other Dutch forts from the 1600’s, because they all followed a similar design. Even the Dutch slave-warehousing castles in West Africa resembled Fort Amsterdam in structure.

 Birds-eye view of Fort Amsterdam
National Museum of the American Indian







Once New York became a city, a Customs House was built on this site (and now houses the National Museum of the American Indian).


Shanti uses a Costello Plan overlay to try and get her bearings in modern-day Manhattan
X marks the spot?

Today’s Pearl Street was New Amsterdam’s Paerl Straet, and during that time it overlooked the water. We walked up Pearl Street, noticing how much landfill has been used to allow the construction of whole city blocks where water once was.

We passed the juncture of Coenties Slip and Pearl Street. Coenties Slip was where the boats “slipped in” to deliver their wares to New Amsterdam. Now it’s a road with a view of the harbor. We couldn’t believe this was once the spot where water met land!

An eighteenth-century well preserved under glass, visible from the sidewalk!
Ruins of a colonial tavern
The original foundation

Next we walked up Stone Street. The kids know this one by heart because it was the only “paved” street in New Amsterdam!

Famous in our minds — Stone Street

In class we recently looked at images of all the different kinds of gables that are found in “Old” Amsterdam. We went up a side street and spotted a step gable like the ones we have been studying! This was the most popular gable style during the 1600′IMG_1833s.

It was hard to imagine that 300-something years ago, these would have been the tallest buildings in New Amsterdam. IMG_1827


In no time at all, we realized that we had traversed the Western side of New Amsterdam and reached the wall.” This wall was originally built to keep out the English, whom the Dutch (rightly) believed would try to take over the territory. It’s easy to find, because it would have been directly below present-day Wall Street!

From one corner of the wall, where the Water Gate would have been, we found we could see all the way to the Land Gate on the other “side” of New Amsterdam, on the spot now occupied by Trinity Church.

What a skinny island Manhattan used to be!

Back in Battery Park for lunch, we found some monuments to old New Amsterdam. And last but not least, we visited the three-dimensional bronze Costello Plan in front of the Whitehall station.

Tucked away for those who know where to look – the Costello Plan, cast in bronze!
Hands on New Amsterdam
Lots of farmland when seen from above!
Pointing out places they recognize
Close-up of a bowerie (farm) right outside the wall
The master navigator retraces our steps on the 3-d map

Thank you to all the parents who gamely joined us for this time-travel adventure!


Posted in community, field trip, science

What’s the problem with a little rain?

Checking out the storm drains around 610 Henry. This one drains to our waterways!

The “Spong” (sic), an invention to slow down, absorb, and/or filter rainwater

Last week Barbara and Johanna took us on a trip to the gutters, drains, and tree pits around 610 Henry. Our mission? To see how well equipped the neighborhood is to handle “excess” rainwater. We learned that when it rains more than 2 inches in New York City, water treatment centers get overloaded and stop being able to process dirty water. That means it gets dumped directly into our waterways! We can help by making sure our neighborhood has lots of ways to slow down or absorb rainwater as it falls.

All year 4th graders have been tending to tree pits around the building. Now they learn that they were helping more than the trees. We break up the soil so it is more absorbent!

Another reason we are a green school: rainwater catchment system used to water the garden
Learning about rainwater collection gutters (pipes?) on the BNS shed

After visiting several storm drains, tree pits, and the shed, it was on to the Eco Casita to explore other ecological features that help our waterways.
Green roof on the Eco Casita is looking a little brown after winter. Just another way to slow down and use rainwater.
Flooring is important. These are permeable pavers, designed to let water seep in through the cracks. The kids confirmed they work as advertised.

After conducting their survey, the kids had some time to design inventions that would address the problem of rainwater runoff.

Camilo’s alternative storm drain setup uses wind to separate out garbage.
Rube Goldberg-y setup by Ezra
The Earthanator, Xeta’s green roof.
Jordan designed a green storm drain with a layer of moss planting that would absorb and filter rainwater.
Back at the green studio, scientists shared their proposals with the class.
Hope: a word that captures the spirit of the day.

Posted in field trip, science

Bye bye, trout!

We managed to keep our Trout In The Classroom friends happy and healthy, from eyed eggs to sac fry to fingerling, now swimming free in the frigid water by Ashokan…

Eyed Eggs

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Free Fingerlings!

Walking down to the river to look for signs of our released fingerlings…
A beautiful, wooded spot with plenty of shade to keep water cool in summer
Good omen? The only patch of water that wasn’t frozen (which was the patch where the trout were released) was in the shape of a heart!
Jayden threw snowballs into the water and when they splashed, we saw trout swimming! 
See them!? They’re swimming!


Thank you Johanna for helping us with our trout project!
Pure, clean water for happy and healthy trout
Barbara said, “Do I look majestic?” She does! Thank you to the majestic Barbara for teaching us to love and care for our trout.

One day soon they’ll be beautiful, big…

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