The Bloomingdale Family Program is thrilled and honored to host a 55th Anniversary Benefit featuring Suzanne Vega on Monday evening, November 23 at el Museo del Barrio, Fifth Avenue at 104th Street.
Please join us as we celebrate 55 years of providing quality early education and family services to our Upper Manhattan community.
We will gather for an evening of celebration featuring long-time Bloomingdale friend and renowned singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega.
The reception with hors d’oeuvres, wine, and the music of cellist Gabriel Royal will be followed by an hour-long private concert by Suzanne Vega in el Museo’s historic theater, which showcases artist Willy Pogany’s award-winning murals commissioned in 1922.
Proceeds from the event will support the Bloomingdale Family Program’s nationally recognized programs providing early education, preventive services, afterschool enrichment, and parent development to families in need in Upper Manhattan.
At Bloomingdale we welcome many visiting educators who come to see our program in action. Recently our Guest Book has taken on a very international flavor, as we hosted visitors from Singapore, Japan, and Indonesia.
This spring we welcomed the Director of the SEED Institute, Singapore’s pioneer early childhood education training program. Director Ho Yin Fong wrote to us after the visit, commenting on our “quality Head Start program that builds on a strong home-school partnership, and committed staff who are passionate about the program’s philosophy and curriculum.”
From the Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages in Tokyo, a delegation of 25 faculty members and students were particularly interested in our bilingual classrooms, where many Bloomingdale children who come to the program speaking little or no English can continue to learn and grow in their home language while gaining fluency in their new tongue.
The HighScope curriculum that we practice at Bloomingdale was what drew Indriani Rusydi, principal of the Early Childhood Education program at Sekolah HighScope Indonesia. Sekolah is a large preschool and teacher-training program, with multiple campuses throughout Indonesia. Like us as Bloomingdale, they are practitioners of the highly-regarded HighScope curriculum. They were particularly interested in the way our teachers engage with children and address each child’s individual needs and interests.
We are thankful to our overseas visitors whose gift to us is the opportunity to share experiences with colleagues working with children half a world away.
Within our vibrant and diverse upper Manhattan community, Bloomingdale is bridging cultural and economic barriers to help neighborhood families get involved with the children at the Bloomingdale Head Start program. “When a family adopts a classroom, everyone benefits,” says Margot Heinlein, Bloomingdale’s Director of Development. “The visits of one family who come to read with a classroom of four-year-olds – bringing books which become part of the classroom library – have developed into a partnership with the independent school their children attend. Classroom visits now bring 4th graders as reading partners for Bloomingdale preschoolers, who in turn share their fluency as Spanish-speakers with their partner-class’s language learners. Another project grew out of the desire of a family’s teen-age daughter to share her love of literature by creating a book club for school-age children in our afterschool Homework Help program. The book club is growing in enrollment and ambition, and is becoming a permanent part of what we offer to children and families at Bloomingdale.”
Adopt-a-Classroom is individually tailored to a family’s goals for themselves and their children, as well as the needs of the program. “Families get involved when they make a tax-deductible contribution to the program, and then seek opportunities to create a meaningful experience for their own children,” Ms. Heinlein said. “In a diverse community like ours, Adopt-a-Classroom is a beautiful way both to give to this outstanding program for children and families, and to benefit in return.”
Why do so many Spanish-speaking children in our city do poorly in our schools? Why are they over-represented in Special Ed classrooms? Bloomingdale’s preschool classrooms are filled with eager young children whose families speak little or no English at home. In our enriched bilingual classrooms, and with access to quality on-site preventive services, the children thrive intellectually and socially. Their language ability grows rapidly, both in Spanish and in English. They leave our program ready to succeed in school. And because we are determined that they keep on learning and succeeding in school, we offer a highly effective program — Homework Help — to support their progress.
A Two-pronged Approach
Homework Help not only addresses the needs of the children but also supports their parents’ efforts to help them at home. The participating children — all Bloomingdale “alumni” who are now in elementary school — return to us three afternoons a week to review their classwork and complete their assignments. They look forward to being with their bilingual teachers, and enjoy the small group work and individual attention.
Parents play a key role in the program as participants in our concurrent Homework Help for Parents, an ESL class that focuses on how they can support their children’s academic progress at home. Together we look at everyday tasks that parents can turn into skill-building opportunities for their children such as writing shopping lists, comparing supermarket prices, following recipes, and measuring ingredients.
Parents gain experience and confidence in advocating for their children. Many are recent immigrants, and are reluctant to approach public school teachers and administrators. At Homework Help for Parents, they become familiar with the school curriculum and expectations for their child. They build a template for the kind of questions to ask and information to share when they meet with their child’s teacher. If needed, Homework Help staff will act as liaison between the parent and the school.
Last year, every child in the program completed the year on or above grade level and earned promotion to the next grade in a mainstream classroom. In the ten years since the program began, the promotion rate has consistently been 95 percent or better. Parent outcomes are equally encouraging. Parent attendance averaged above 75 percent last year. They tell us they are better able to assist their child with schoolwork, and that they have created a structured time and place in the home for reading and schoolwork.
Homework Help is a small program, and can only serve 25 children. We are grateful to the Pinkerton Foundation and the West Side Fund for Children for their continued support, and we are seeking additional funds to increase the number of children we can serve. Our success tells us that this is a program that merits significant expansion.
Video is a powerful tool for professional development at Bloomingdale, where we use video coaching to strengthen teachers’ practice. “The video camera puts a third eye in the classroom,” says Bloomingdale Education Director Marilyn Barnwell. “It’s effective because it’s non-judgmental and enables teachers to become active partners in supporting their own professional practice.”
After each teaching team has viewed the videotape of their classroom performance, they meet with Marilyn to review the tape together. “It’s not always easy to have an observer watching your performance,” Marilyn says, “but with video coaching each teacher has the opportunity to become an objective classroom observer. Once they get past the novelty of seeing and listening to themselves, teachers are eager to critique their own work; they consider how they might be more effective in introducing a new concept or activity or how they might better connect with their students. They also want to see how their new ideas will work out in the classroom, and I’m often invited to return and retake that part of the school day, so they can see the improvement.”
Bloomingdale teachers also appear on camera in a new e-book by Lesley Koplow, Director of Bank Street College’s Center for Emotionally Responsive Practice (ERP). With its many embedded videos, the e-book delivers on its title: “Bringing ERP To Life in the Classroom.”
Lesley has long served as a resource to Bloomingdale. Her Bank Street program builds on the well-documented connection between children’s emotional wellbeing and their potential for learning. The program encourages teachers to provide opportunities for children’s self-expression within the classroom, and helps them develop emotionally responsive school routines, curriculum, and adult-child interactions throughout the school day.
One sequence in the e-book focuses on helping teachers and parents work together to support children’s progress. Viewers see a skilled Bloomingdale teacher conducting a parent conference, connecting with the parent, and building mutual trust. Commenting on the interaction, Lesley underscores the value of the parent conference, and how much teachers can learn from viewing it done well. “If you are hesitant to ask parents about children’s histories,” she said, “watch these teachers, and you won’t be anxious any more.”
The new e-book was produced by New York City’s Department of Education and the Administration for Children’s Services, together with the West Side Montessori School. It is expected to be available soon to the sponsoring communities.
Faced with shrinking government funding, Bloomingdale is embarking on innovative ways to generate new revenue to support our Head Start and childcare programs. With seed money from the Elizabeth and Barets O. Benjamin Foundation, we have launched BloomingdalePLUS, opening our facilities on Saturdays and Sundays to become the Upper West Side’s outstanding new venue for children’s birthday parties.
All earnings from BloomingdalePLUS are dedicated to augmenting support for our nationally recognized early childhood centers, which serve low-income families in upper Manhattan.
Help us spread the word about BloomingdalePLUS. We offer customized party packages with age-appropriate activities, food, and festivities — all handled by our party planners. There’s more information online at www.bloomingdaleplus.com, and our party planners can be contacted directly at 212-666-2197 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.