PS 676 is a small K-5 school for approximately 125 students serving Red Hook public housing residents. After eight troubled years, the school is on the rebound with a new Principal and staff as of midway through Spring semester 2018. In October 2018, PortSide began working with the staff to develop programs that speak to the students’ needs, interests and prior experience good and bad. We were introduced to their new dynamic Principal Priscilla Figueroa by our Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who provided funding support via the Department of Cultural Affairs “Cultural After School Adventures” (CASA) program. Our programs with PS 676 started in December and are evolving. In addition to teaching academic content, we focus on affirming and giving voice to students who in many ways live in the blind spot of our society. The students and teachers are responding enthusiastically.
In December, the Principal’s Council came to our ship MARY A. WHALEN to make holiday decorations. We hung these inside our ship so that attendees of the Red Hook business holiday party would see them and become more aware of the school. We also spoke about PS 676 during our remarks as an effort to better connect the school to the Red Hook community and steer resources to the school.
1st grade reading class comes every other Friday to read WaterStories books and have waterfront experiences that bring the books to life. We connect the real world to what is in the books by showing them ducks, geese, seagulls, ships and more. Using our binoculars is very popular.
The end-of-semester project we designed is to have the class write a collaborative book, have that printed in Red Hook, and take the students on field trip to NY Printing to get their books, see the collection of printing machines there (in effect a museum), visit the historic warehouse where this is located, meet a woman business owner and hear her hurricane Sandy story.
Putting students who are struggling to learn to read in the position of becoming authors empowers them and makes them feel literacy is an attainable skill. Plus, the project gives them voice.
How you can support this work
Help us change lives. Please donate. We need funds for staff and materials.
Donate new and gently used WaterStories children’s books for us to read with the students. Non WaterStories ones we will give to students who have no books at home.
O’Connell Family Foundation
Red Hook Container Terminal
These programs are also funded in part by the “Cultural After-School Adventures” (CASA) program of the Department of Cultural Affairs, secured by our Councilman Carlos Menchaca. He introduced the Principal of PS 676 to PortSide and jump-started this fruitful relationship.