Lower School Program

In our lower school, we celebrate the fact that children want to engage powerfully with the world. We honor the industry and openhearted energy they bring to their pursuit of new ideas and skills. Reading, writing, and math are practiced daily when games are played, books read and written, and social justice topics investigated. We provide a wide array of materials, observing and soliciting student interest to guide our classes and projects. Our truly mixed-age environment further enables children to teach each other and learn from a variety of fellow students and adults. As they expand their sense of their own agency, students also learn to practice kindness and empathy when strong feelings are expressed and conflicts resolved.

Within all of this chaos, there are places, like Brooklyn Free School, that honor self-directed learning, that challenge privilege, that advocate for those who are marginalized, that give support to all voices no matter the age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or economic status, and that educate for social justice and equity for all. I see every day the impact this type of education has on my children, and I know in my soul that the presence of this school will make an impact on the way this world will turn out.
— Parent

Schedule


Our Guiding Principles at Work in the Lower School

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Teaching and Learning

Child-led activities and classes.

Teachers solicit student interests and design classroom activities in response to student requests. Staff encourage student teaching whenever possible.

Mixed-age advisories and all-school activities.

We honor the invaluable lessons young people teach other. Every day includes time for students of all ages (from four to 18) to spend time together. Every advisory includes a two- to three-year age range.

Play.

Projects are integrated into, and inspired by, student games and daily inventions.

Multiple intelligences.  

Careful attention is paid to teaching to multiple learning styles.

Trips.

We take our learning outside the classroom and choose trips in response to student interest.

Reading and cuddling.

 We set aside time each day for relaxed and cozy reading time with snack.

The Library, The Art Room, The Music Room.

These shared school spaces are always open for student use.


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Equity

Student-led meetings and classes.

Five year olds, eight year olds; all students are supported in leading meetings and activities. Young students also have the chance, and the choice, to chair the weekly all-school democratic meeting.

Affinity Groups.

Staff-supported groups meet according to racial and gender identification.

Discussion.

Students are supported in naming moments of unfairness and inequality, talking about it, and problem solving as a group.

Conflict resolution.

Students are taught to use mediation and democratic meetings to handle conflict.

Shared class resources.

Snack and classroom materials are provided to all students equally.

Every trip for every student.

Trips are paid for from a shared fund, which is replenished by school-wide fundraising. Trips are only an option if the cost can be covered for every single student.


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Play

Outside!

We get outdoors every day, multiple times a day, in most weather. Field trips are a regular part of our curriculum.

Choice.

Students have access to an array of materials and options, and are provided the time and agency to make real choices for themselves.

Play for play, and play as catalyst.

Playdough becomes a classroom bakery and can lead to the opening of a class restaurant. Our teachers pay close attention and provide resources to help students expand and realize their ideas both as individuals and through team effort.

Capture the Flag.

A long-running BFS tradition, we join in multiage games of Capture the Flag in the park.


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Community

Classroom agreements.

Students create shared agreements and guidelines for behavior and participation.

Daily meetings.

Each day begins and ends with an advisory gathering where information is shared, plans are made, and listening to each other is a priority.

Field trips.

We regularly travel together into our neighborhood and city.

Show and Tell.

We make time to exchange stories about our own lives and experiences.

Sharing.

We sit down for a shared snack every day, we sing together, we rotate partners so that all students get to know each other.

All-school celebrations and events.

Throughout our school year, we join the rest of the school, and our school families, in holiday celebrations, work fairs, and potlucks.

Care for our building and shared spaces.

Every day, all students are responsible for cleaning their floor, and every week they meet in mixed-age “pods” to care for shared spaces like our music room, art room, and library.

Family.

Our families are an essential part of our school, and are invited to participate in the school as visiting teachers, chaperones, and guests for celebrations such as our advisory potlucks and spring barbecue. We also support the work of family through parenting workshops and affinity groups.