Chancellor Dennis Walcott asked elementary school students questions about the maps they were making of New York City and the Bronx.
This morning, after the class of rising fourth-graders at P.S. 211 established what they want to know about the Bronx, they divided into four different groups to come up with projects that would help teach them. One group wanted to know what animals live in the Bronx, so they decided to create a magazine about wildlife. Another group wanted to know what some of the most famous restaurants are in the Bronx, so they're creating a menu for their own Arthur Avenue eatery.
Their project-based learning is the hallmark of the Department of Education's Summer Quest program, which is designed to prevent students from losing ground over the summer. It differs from regular summer school, which is geared toward helping students pass state math and reading exams, because it enrolls students who struggle but are not the lowest-performing, a rarity among city-funded summer programs.
Summer Quest, which is part of Chancellor Dennis Walcott's focus on middle schools, launched last year with 1,120 elementary and middle school students in 12 schools and includes 1,800 students this year. Community-based organizations including the Children's Aid Society, Building Educated Leaders for Life, and Good Shepherd Services have partnered with 11 South Bronx schools to provide staff and support services for five-week, nine-hour-a-day program.
At P.S. 211, which Chancellor Dennis Walcott toured Thursday morning, the theme for all Summer Quest learning is "Our New York City." Students in different classrooms drew maps of the Bronx and its landmarks, sketched and shared objects that were significant to their cultures, learned to cook a vegetable frittata, and practiced a choreographed dance routine — which Walcott enthusiastically joined.