From by Amy Zimmer:
When Samantha Kaplan opened P.S. 151 three years ago in the former Our Lady of Good Counsel school building, the paint was still wet from the renovation, and some parents in the neighborhood were skeptical of an unproven school.

Since then, Kaplan and the Yorkville Community School, as it is known, have earned awards and a strong reputation in the community.

DNAinfo talked with Kaplan about her vision and inspiration for the school.

Q: What was your vision for your school?

When I was teaching at P.S. 41, I was given a lot of creative leeway, but I also maintained a very structured environment. I wanted to recreate that but also bring in my vision of a school with integrated units of study where children are engaged in three-month-long units of study where everything is integrated.

We're doing something right now on pets. Every kindergarten classroom has a pet: guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards, fish, hermit crabs or frogs. It's wonderful: You have children who might need language development, and they're just starting to talk about what these pets need. We're getting them thinking and going. The units of study culminate in a project that raises money for charities in the community. For the pets, they're raising money for the ASPCA. We're giving back to the community.

When I was teaching, there were always those children who were not engaged because they didn't come with that background knowledge or they hadn't had many experiences. And then you had children who were naturally looking to explore and question. With 25 to 30 children, how do you make that work? What can you give to everyone that will excite them? With units of study, all children can be engaged. Those who want to go off and explore something on their own can do that. And the children, who might need more support, have that.

Q: Has the curriculum changed since you started the school?

You can't just create a curriculum without observing your students and reflecting on it and making changes. It took patience and reflection and a lot of trust from the staff because this was something new to them. It took a lot of trust on my part, too, that they were trying.

I spend lunchtime with the students. That's how I find out if they're excited about their learning, what they want to do, what kind of books they need. The teachers are great resources, but if you sit children down in small groups, they provide a lot of insight into their own learning and interests.

read more>>