Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Day in the Life…

On a recent jam-packed class day, my Seminar in Museum Education class was held at MoMA! The theme of the day was learning about accessibility – opening learning to all – a topic crucial for every area of education.

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My friend and I opted to walk from Columbus Circle to MoMA, to take in some of the bustling 9AM city life….

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and get some delicious Swedish coffee at Fika! They make a mean soy latte.

After a thorough synopsis of MoMA’s extended efforts to reach all types of patrons, we headed to the galleries. First, with a partner, we took turns closing our eyes and explaining one painting to each other. This is a practice often used to assist blind visitors in experiencing art. I chose to describe Magritte’s “Empire of Light II”.

Then came the once in a lifetime opportunity to actually touch art! Supervised by staff and armed with plastic gloves, my classmates and I were able to touch a Boccioni sculpture called “Development of a Bottle in Space,” and a Picasso called “Woman’s Head,” or “Fernande” (as pictured).

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Everyone scurried back to Bank Street afterwards, to meet a guest speaker Ellen Rubin, an accessibility consultant (and Bank Street alum!). Listening to her perspective of accessibility was invaluable, for Ellen herself is blind. Her personal experiences combined with her museum and education background (she in fact has degrees both in Museum Education and Special Education from Bank Street), gave us, I felt, a realistic overview of what needs to be done to make a museum truly accessible. And I loved her sense of humor!

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Ellen brought along a number of books in braille, mostly what she felt were great examples of extending certain topics to the blind, including astronomy. She also brought a book that she said was a poor example – an alphabet book  that used small objects to demonstrate a word per letter, but often in a convoluted way (a rubber band for elastic? Would a child get that connection?).

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Just another day in the life of Bank Street Sara!

Principals Institute Featured on NYCDOE “Leadership Pathways” Website

The New York City Department of Education’s Division of Academics, Performance and Support (DAPS) Office of Leadership has just launched its new Leadership Pathways website, with Bank Street College’s own Principals Institute featured prominently on its database of Leadership Development Opportunities.

The Leadership Pathways site was created by the DOE to support and advance the growth of current and future leaders in its system.  The website provides details on a range of leadership development opportunities and offers an overview of resources available to support school and building leaders. The programs listed on the site provide professional development experiences and opportunities for new, aspiring, and experienced school leaders. The Leadership Pathways site is a great, new online resource for the development and recognition of our school leaders.

The Principals Institute at Bank Street College is a Leadership Program designed for educators in New York City public schools aiming to focus on the challenges of urban education, effective strategies for educating diverse learners, and the “nuts and bolts” of NYC school leadership. The program has a strong focus on instructional leadership, incorporating special education leadership, and includes an intensive advisory and internship component. The Principals Institute takes place in a cohort format over 18 months and leads to a Master of Education (36 credits) or Master of Science in Education (39 credits). Students who complete all degree requirements successfully are recommended for New York State School Building Leader (SBL) certification. There is also an opportunity for New York State School District Leader (SDL) certification as part of an additional 5-credit program.

For more information on the New York City Department of Education’s Leadership Pathway database and to view Bank Street College’s Leadership Pathway listing, click here. To learn more about the Principals Institute, click here.

(This article was originally published on bankstreet.edu on March 12, 2013.)

All the World is a Stage

Recently I attended a performance of Don Cristobal, the Spanish version of Punch and Judy, at the Abrons Arts Center. I went in with no expectations and little information about the show other than that it involved puppets. In the small experimental theater, that perhaps sat 100 people, I soon fell under the spell of the charming cast and the universal story of unrequited love.

As I watched, my mind volleyed from incredulity at how adept the puppeteers were in making the Cristobal puppet seem like a real person, to marvelling at the actors’ ability to employ their imaginations and activate those of the audience.

This naturally made me think of dramatic play with young children. Recently in Curriculum for Early Childhood Education, a course I am taking with Sal Vascellaro, we discussed the value in dramatic play for children. Giving children time, space, and materials to explore experiences that are new to them, allows them to make sense of their world. The opportunity to recreate scenes and roles provides children with a medium for problem solving skills, socializing, and building their confidence. When I worked with five-year-olds, I would regularly observe them pretending to be superheroes, monsters, and zombies at recess time, which likely demonstrated their desire to be powerful beings, able to do things that children cannot or are not allowed to do.

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As I have pondered the importance of dramatic play, I have found myself questioning why it seems that as children grow, such play diminishes. In fact, unless an older child, teenager or adult takes an active interest in acting, they often do not participate in dramatic play again. Could dramatic play benefit people of all ages?

In my opinion, it could, and not just particularly for educators trying to capture the attention of their students. Imagining, or playing with concepts of reality can be a very powerful excursion for the mind, creating new perspectives, and even fostering compassion (you can’t know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes). As standardized testing and curriculum cause ever-increasing pressures in the classroom, it seems that the battle to dedicate time to dramatic play is tougher than ever, though not impossible to win. And the benefits are worth fighting for.  As the Association for Childhood Education International states “No adult instruction can take the place of children’s own activities and experiences through continual play.”

Storytime for All Ages

Last week I had the privilege of attending a storytelling workshop and performance right here at Bank Street. Educators and performers from the Lincoln Center Institute worked with Bank Street graduate students and faculty to discuss and analyze the myriad ways in which a basic story can be altered and conveyed. The mission of the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) is to develop skills of imagination, creativity, and innovation through education and the arts. They work not only with students in Pre-k through 12th grade, but also educators. This workshop coincided with the weekly conference group meeting time, providing a nice alternative to our weekly two-hour chat around a table.

Many conference groups gathered with our advisors as well as a performer from LCI, Jean Taylor. She initially gave us a prompt with a simple story on it, and then asked us how it could be altered. People called out suggestions such as changing characters and setting, and I suggested changing the point of view of the storyteller.

With partners, we wrote our own brief versions of the tale, and prepared how we would incorporate movement and sound. This was definitely a challenge for those of us who are not naturally performers. Thankfully, we did not have to perform in front of the whole room, rather just with one or two other pairs. It was truly fascinating how one story could lead to so many variations. The workshop was a great example of how a meeting of minds can produce a plethora of ideas. Not only that but the LCI instructor was inspiring for her zestful approach and palpable joy in storytelling, which I think all educators endeavor to project in working with children.

After the workshop, we were treated to a masterful performance by Charlotte Blake Alston, who not only deflty manuevered through a handful of stories and songs, but also played an African stringed instrument made from a hollowed goard, called a kora.

I was very impressed with her timing – how she would ease right from one story into the next, or seamlessly enter a story from her introduction. And her memory! How on earth this woman remembers the stories is beyond me.


As the Bank Street graduate audience sat spellbound, it was clear to me that the storytelling skills demonstrated could be employed in engaging students, young and old, by any educator. Storytelling skills can bring life to any subject and encourage imaginations to soar, while fostering social relationships in all classrooms – even on a graduate level!