City Kids: How Corlears Uses New York as a Resource in the Classroom

It’s no secret that New Yorkers are a special breed. Living in one of the most active, populated and vibrant cities in the world is bound to have an effect on its residents – and it most certainly has an effect on our students. Corlears teachers are constantly finding ways to use the city as a resource in the classroom. Whether it’s meeting with New York professionals for a job study or traveling to a popular Famer’s Market to study agriculture, Corlears students are able to make real-world connections to the content they learn in class as they navigate this very unique city.

Chelsea and Randi's 6/7s visit the Union Square Farmer's Market

Chelsea and Randi's 6/7s visit the Union Square Farmer's Market

Growing up in New York, one can become almost immune to the sights, sounds and structures that surround them. 6/7s teachers Chelsea and Randi use their studies to take the city blinders off and encourage their students to take a closer look at things they pass every day, but rarely notice. Take, for example, one of the simplest and common tasks - grocery shopping. With stores on almost every corner, a grocery store seems anything but remarkable – until you discover all that goes into stocking its shelves. These 6/7s have been studying Markets and Farms, learning how we get our food and just how many choices we have available to us when making those stopping trips. Markets may be accessible, but how do a bunch of city kids study farms?  While being in Manhattan may seem far removed from the rolling hills of picturesque farmland, it’s closer than one might think. Corlears is just a few short blocks west from the famed Union Square Farmer’s Market; the intersection of urban life and rural agriculture. Chelsea and Randi have also scheduled a trip to the Queens County Farm, where children will witness first hand all that it takes to supply food items that they eat on a regular basis. As with this study, many of Corlears’ teachers bring curriculum to life by integrating aspects of urban life; helping their students to relate their own experiences with the topics and people they learn about.

Ears of corn hang from the ceiling in Kate and Alyssa's room

Ears of corn hang from the ceiling in Kate and Alyssa's room

New York City also plays a huge role in the 8/9s studies. Last year, students studied immigration, focusing on Ellis Island and the people that immigrated to New York City in the 18th and 19th centuries. Students supplemented their in-class time with visits to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, learning about what their city was like long ago and how it compares to the city they know today. After exploring immigration of the past, they begin to learn about it in the present; interviewing contemporary immigrants – many of them family members – to gain an understanding of how their experiences compares to that of the 18th and 19th century immigrants. This year, students will study the original New Yorkers; the Lenape people. The Corlears educational experience is immersive and integrated - and this study is a prime example. At just a few weeks into the school year, students have already taken trips to Inwood Hill Park. During these trips the 8/9s leave the hustle and bustle of the city to explore nature and gain an understanding of how land can sustain its native animals and people. Walking into Kate and Alyssa’s room you’ll notice many things, including ears of corn hanging from the ceiling. While these makeshift ornaments make a lovely decoration for the room, it is yet another aspect of their deep exploration of the Lenape people. Currently, students are brainstorming different ideas about what they think might happen to the corn as it dries over time and different ways the corn can be used. This study permeates every aspect of their Corlears experience. For instance, students that go to Clearpool can further explore nature and sustainability in a new setting, while in the art studio they can create colors inspired by what they find in nature and gain a deeper understanding of the Lenape people. This integrated approach to education is at the heart of the Corlears experience and begins in the early years.  

Students visit Murray's cheese during their dairy study!

Students visit Murray's cheese during their dairy study!

Corlears Kindergarten students learn about their New York community through their course of study. Ks teacher Rachel says that “getting out of the classroom” is important for her students and allows them to make observations and connection to the world that surrounds them. As with the 6/7s, the Ks studies allow them to take a closer look into things they may already be familiar with, and “deeply connect to on a regular basis,” says Rachel.  The resources these students have access to are quintessentially New York. Whether it be exploring the costume department at Lincoln Center or partaking in a cheese tasting at Murray’s Cheese, their trips give these Kindergartners the opportunity to further investigate the institutions and businesses that make up their very diverse and distinctive community.    

For any parent that has ever traveled with a young child on a crowded train, they know that living in New York can be a challenge. That challenge, however, is well worth the extra effort when taking into account the invaluable resources to residents including our students at Corlears. Our deep interdisciplinary approach allows both educators and students to use the city as a resource in the classroom; creating opportunities to make deep connections between curriculum and students’ lives.