- Students showed a need for support in design and research; they did not know the scientific method.
- Establishing a school culture takes time, hard work, vigilance and commitment from staff, students, partners, and parents.
- The school and its partners cannot separate youth development and culture building activities from the academic curriculum.
The Prospect Park Alliance (PPA) partners with Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) and the New York City Department of Education to operate the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE). Part of the city-wide initiative to convert large, under-performing high schools into small, theme-based ones, BASE is a three-campus school that integrates the missions and resources of its partners to offer academic excellence and rigor. The BASE community of staff, families and community partners supports students in becoming critical thinkers, active learners and problem solvers who are scientifically literate, engaged citizens who value and respect the environment. In order to create a strong, sustainable collaboration, the partners have expanded their educational staff, hired a community director, and committed additional resources. The community director works closely with staff from PPA and BBG. Both partners provide staff assistance from education, marketing, government relations, development, finance, youth programs, and landscape management departments. Much of the interaction between staff and students takes place during Field Studies. Field Studies are weekly, credit-bearing courses, which teach scientific inquiry and bring students into the park and garden to engage them in hands-on explorations of the environment. They are a proven way of reaching young people who might not ordinarily respond to traditional teaching methods.
Program Goals/Issues Addressed
- Use physical and educational resources of Prospect Park Alliance and Brooklyn Botanic Garden to strengthen BASE’s curriculum, integrating educational approaches between public high school and its two non-formal education institutions.
- Develop students who are critical thinkers through using field studies to teach the scientific method of inquiry.
- Develop critical thinkers who value and respect the environment; 10th-grade students participate in community environmental research.
- Work with students who enter with a variety of performance levels and abilities, and graduate students who are high performing and college ready.
- Develop a strong school culture among students, staff, administration, partners, and parents that supports students’ academic and lifetime success.
The Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment opened its doors to the first freshmen class in September 2003 and will add a grade of students each year until an enrollment of approximately 450 students is reached.
Funding Sources/Partnerships and Type of Support Provided
BASE is a collaboration that has been made possible through a major grant from the New Century High Schools Initiative, a joint initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Open Society Institute to create smaller, more effective high schools. The project is managed by New Visions for Public Schools in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators. Educators, parents, students, community-based organizations and collaborating partners — the Brooklyn Museum, Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn College, New York League of Conservation Voters and Safe Horizon — work together to redefine and develop the unique concepts and curriculum goals of the school.
- NYS Regents scores for Living Environment in 2004 were: 91% met graduation requirement of 55 or better and 75% met the requirement for Regents Diploma. Both pass rates were 10% higher than last year’s citywide scores and more than double that of Prospect Heights High School, which is being phased out. Students did particularly well on the section of the exam has to do with designing research, which is directly attributed to their experience with Field Studies.
- 2005 Math Regents scores were: 72.7% passed with a 55 or better and 56.6% received a 65 or higher. By comparison, after four years of high school, the citywide passing rate is 67% and at Prospect Heights High School the passing rate is 34%. Embedded in the BASE statistic are twenty-one 9th graders who took the exam a year earlier than normal. 100% of this group passed with scores ranging from 73-95%.
- BASE has seen significant increases in the number of students achieving Honor Roll status. In the first semester of the 2003-04 school year, less than 1% of students received High Honors by achieving a 90-100% in every subject, and 4% of students received Merit with 80-89% in every subject. Based on the first semester of 2004-05, 6% of students received High Honors and 18% of students were awarded Merit.
- BASE students are performing at such an exceptional academic level that many students are participating in College Now. This program, usually reserved for juniors and seniors, enrolls students in courses at Medgar Evers College in chemistry, biology, and math. Students are enrolled free of charge and receive college credits for each course.
- Attendance rates are above the citywide and school-wide average at 90.2%. Prospect Heights High Schools has an average attendance rate of 77%.