The Quincy Elementary School is near Chinatown, in a sprawling building that also houses an active community center. Many of its 800 students (grades K0-5) have physical handicaps, and the school recently hosted a basketball game between staff and the New England Blazers wheelchair team.

More than 50% of the Quincy’s population is Asian American, and Mandarin is taught to every student. I visited in February when classes were preparing for their school-wide celebration of Chinese New Year. Art teacher Sally Wattles says, “We [also] have a dance teacher, music teacher and theater teacher. We are all working to put on a production of the Lion King. It’s great to be in a school that’s recognizing that the arts are important!”

From forming letters in Kelly Garcelon‘s K2 class to learning how to summarize with Nicole Terranova in Grade 4, students were immersed in literacy activities – including independent reading in books of their choice. In the gym, Tom Levett led a group of kindergarten students in warm-up exercises that involved taking on the shape of various letters.

Computer teacher Andrea Blake was teaching second graders how to write code, using a free programming language called Scratch that enables students to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Check it out! In Mark Sacco‘s class, second and third grade students with physical handicaps were making and decorating chocolate candies for Valentine’s Day.

Paraprofessional Latisha Waiters described parent involvement at the Quincy as “fabulous” and gave these examples of parent-run activities: “There are two nonprofits formed and run by parents. They also have a parent coffee hour every Friday morning to get more parents involved!”

The Quincy has recently been accepted as a candidate for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program – a first for BPS! Teachers were trained by IB staff this past summer and are working throughout the year in grade level teams to develop inquiry-based curriculum units for the first two (of six) IB “transdisciplinary” themes: “Who are we?” and “Where are we in place and time?” I have long believed that learning is naturally interdisciplinary and that we need a greater focus on global awareness, so it’s exciting to see a school exploring this kind of pedagogy.

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Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.