On a beautiful June day several years ago I went for a walk around Jamaica Pond and found Haley School fifth graders launching the boats they’d built during the year with John Rowse — a former BPS teacher and the founder of Community Boat Building. This year I finally got to visit!
Located on American Legion Highway near the Boston Nature Center, the Haley serves approximately 300 students. A turtle, a lizard, a fish, crickets, and a dove greet you as you walk into the large entrance area — maintained by a parent volunteer! A new wing of modular classrooms will hopefully be completed by the holidays; in the meantime, 6th and 7th grade students are shuttled to and from the Rogers Middle School each day, where they occupy several rooms on the third floor.
The Haley is a full inclusion pilot school that uses its budget autonomy to make sure there are two teachers in every classroom. Highlights of my visit included watching Ernsie Noel’s kindergarteners trying to identify smells as part of their “Five Senses” unit; a young girl working with Becky Kase, her physical therapist; and students in Amy Wedge’s art class sharing and getting feedback on their work. The cafeteria was being used for health and physical education classes: third graders practicing yoga positions with Angel Scott and playing “Partner Knee Tag” with Teresa Starble. Science is taught by classroom teachers: second graders in Janine Casapulla and —’s class are observing insects, while the students in Anne Patrick and Bridget Galvin’s fifth grade classroom are building a river!
Sixth graders were working at different “stations” around the room, one group discussing BPS student essays about courage with humanities teacher Amy Higginbotham in preparation for writing their own. She told me, “I try and do station teaching at least two times a week; the students really enjoy getting up and moving, and I can have more quality time with them.” Across the hall a computer game design team from UMass was working with students who are providing feedback on an interactive career awareness game they are developing.
Although I didn’t get to visit Community Boat Building’s new site downtown, they are still very much involved with the Haley. A full-size “rowing skiff” is on display at the school’s entrance and a couple of fifth graders told me they’d just begun their scheduled time (Monday-Thursday afternoons for about three weeks) to work on this collaborative project. I wish every school had access to such rich, interdisciplinary learning experiences!
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.