Frequently Asked Questions
- How does the Cluster System work?
- What is a typical day like in Youngers?
- Why is a K-6 experience important?
- What is the transition like to Middle School?
- How does PS1 prepare students for further academic and personal growth?
- Why Pluralism?
- How does PS1 use technology in the classroom?
- How are incoming students and families welcomed to the PS1 community?
- Why doesn’t PS1 give grades?
- Does PS1 do any standardized testing?
- What is the homework policy?
- Does PS1 have sports teams?
- Does PS1 teach a foreign language?
How does the Cluster System work?
Students are grouped in multi-age classrooms with two grade levels in each classroom: K-1, 2-3, 3-4, and 5-6. At each of these levels, there are at least two classes of the same multi-age groups. These classes form what we call a cluster.
The Clusters and their grade level ranges are as follows: Youngers (K-1); Bridge (2-3); Middles (3-4); and Olders (5-6). The Cluster system is designed to build community and students within each cluster frequently learn and play together. With this level of support, PS1 students become self-assured individuals and confident leaders.
We celebrate that each child develops at her or his own pace. Every year, we take great care to make informed class placements for each student. When making a placement, we gather information from students, and teachers in order to consider the following: academic and social-emotional factors; leadership/citizenship as the younger or older in a classroom; and teacher/peer relationships.
What is a typical day like in Youngers?
Students in Youngers start their day with a Morning Meeting to settle in and learn about what’s to come in the day ahead. Each day, students spend time working together as a whole group, in small groups, one on one with teachers, and working independently. CLICK HERE to see a sample K-1 (Youngers) schedule to learn more about their day.
Why is a K-6 experience important?
The type of learner that your child is at five years of age can be different than the type of learner they are when they are eleven and twelve years of age. So our program has a built-in mechanism for reevaluating, at the 6th-grade equivalent, what the next best learning environment is for your child. Our students are eager to actively participate in the search and ultimately attend a wide variety of middle schools that will best support their individual talents and needs as they continue to grow. Accordingly, we encourage families to make their school choices one step, one level at a time. We have found our families greatly appreciate this opportunity and understand its importance in uncovering the genius that exists within each and every child.
Through the seven-year journey of elementary school, students change and develop as learners. In the sixth grade year at PS1, teachers, students, administrators, and parents work together to plan what is the next best learning environment for each student.
What is the transition like to Middle School?
PS1 students attend a wide range of middle schools, from the most progressive to the most traditional. That is because PS1 students understand who they are as learners and they are able to find the best fit for their next stage of schooling. That is also why they make the transition so seamlessly. PS1 students are sought after in the middle school admissions process for their academic strengths matched by their joy of learning, their confidence in tackling new concepts, and their ease in social situations. Our alumni often attribute their success in middle school to the strong foundation provided to them at PS1.
How does PS1 prepare students for further academic and personal growth?
At PS1, students participate in a wide range of various activities and intellectual challenges, generating both academic and social/emotional growth. Teachers know each student’s strengths and stretches and provide individual attention to support each child’s overall development. Project-Based Learning (PBL), integrated subjects, and other methods are used across the curriculum, providing students with many stimulating opportunities to actively explore real-world issues or problems in a relatable context and generate possible solutions. Through working together with each other and their teachers during this ongoing elementary school journey, our students not only build their mastery of academic concepts but also come to understand the ways in which they learn best as individuals. Students learn how they learn best during their years at PS1 equipping them for future success in the classroom and in their lives. They grow personally while understanding how to be self-driven problem solvers. This preparation during the elementary years lays a foundation that our alumni draw upon throughout life, refining skills that will be critical to understanding the 21st-century world and solving the challenges of tomorrow.
Learn more about the values and intentional structure of PS1’s pluralistic elementary curriculum.
From the first day of kindergarten through 6th grade, we help students understand themselves as individuals and as members of larger communities. We’ve designed our curriculum, schedule, and even our physical campus to inspire both productive cooperation and individual reflection. As students gradually expand their comfort zones—from small-group projects to their classroom, school, neighborhood, and eventually the wider world—each learns how and why to make positive change at every level. Multi-age groupings of students allow students of different ages to learn alongside each other, guided and informed by two lead teachers who model productive inquiry and spontaneous insight.
How does PS1 use technology in the classroom?
Technology is one of many learning tools used in the classroom and is a part of the daily life of the classrooms. Specific software is chosen to enhance learning as another tool for teachers. Skills such as keyboarding, word processing, and the use of the Internet for research are taught. Students create multimedia presentations using iPads or computers. Technology is an integral part of the design and engineering projects that students produce in The Studio. They will use software to design something that they build on the 3-D printer. It is our goal that students become adept and confident with technology as the tools to stimulate and heighten their sense of imagination, discovery, presentation, and exploration.
CLICK HERE to read more about how The Studio integrates technology into the curriculum.
CLICK below to hear how a 6th grade student describes technology at PS1:
How are incoming students and families welcomed to the PS1 community?
As they join our close-knit learning community, every incoming family is paired with a host family to help make the transition to a new school both easy and inviting. Our Child Development Specialist offers incoming parents an educational talk on transitions. The New Family Dinner, held on an evening in the Spring after new enrollment, provides an early opportunity for new families to meet and mingle along with PS1 staff. Incoming families are invited to participate in summer playdates on and off campus. As the start of school arrives, there are many additional efforts to extend a welcoming hand to our newest community members. Make New Friends Day just before the first day of school, gives all new Youngers and their families an opportunity to practice the start-of-school routine with their teachers. On the first day of school itself, we hold a welcoming coffee for all parents and showcase the many volunteer opportunities available throughout the community. We then invite incoming parents up to New Parent Orientation as they await Noon dismissal. Finally, we start school on Wednesday and have ½ days for the remainder of that first week to ease into the school year. All of these touch points lead to a virtually seamless start to the school year for incoming families.
Why doesn’t PS1 give grades?
At PS1, our purpose is to help students develop with a sense of intrinsic motivation—to know that they are doing their best work because they are interested in learning and what they are learning has meaning for them, rather than earning a grade. Research shows that letter grades diminish a student’s interest in learning and decrease the quality of a student’s thinking (Kohn, 2011).
We continuously assess students’ learning. This information is provided to parents through a rubric and narrative report cards two times a year and parent-teacher conferences twice a year. Faculty engage in a year-long dialogue with parents, actively maintaining the necessary parent partnership to best support each student.
Does PS1 do any standardized testing?
No. At this time, the Standardized Test Taking Task Force carefully considered the pros and cons of administering standardized tests (Educational Records Bureau's CTP is an example of testing we have done until recently and for many years) and determined we will not administer standardized testing this year.
CLICK HERE to read the Why behind this decision.
What is the homework policy?
PS1 strives to give homework that is meaningful and developmentally appropriate. Teachers at all grade levels assign homework in literacy and math. Students typically have specialized subject-specific homework throughout the year. Students in Olders (5th/6th) typically have an hour of homework each night, involving activities to reinforce learning from the school day as well as ongoing projects that help students learn time-management skills in preparation for middle school.
Does PS1 have sports teams?
No. PS1 is a non-competitive school and therefore we do not have a competitive sports team program. However, the physical activity and development of each child are incredibly important. P.E. class occurs up to three times in a student’s weekly schedule. P.E. classes focus on: skill development, teamwork, learning how to play a myriad of traditional and non-traditional team sports, and sportsmanship. You can always find PS1 students engaged in ball games during recess times, and many students participate in competitive sports after school.
Does PS1 teach a foreign language?
No. PS1 understands the value of understanding a different culture, building skills of empathy, and developing an ear for language through the study of world languages. We have made the choice to have a robust specialist program including art, music, library, STEAM studio, and physical education. The other time in the day is focused on language arts, math, science, and social studies, in addition to intentional social-emotional learning and time for play. Each day and each week is full, designed to be student-centered, developmentally appropriate, creative, and engaging. Many of the positive outcomes that come from the study of a world language are pursued through PS1's wide-ranging program.