How do schools create a sense of community? - Brooklyn Prospect Charter School

How do schools create a sense of community?

This year our educators have been busy building a sense of community and creating moments of joy in schools that have looked and felt different than ever before. But did the realities of school this year slow them down? Read for yourself!

Dot Day, which took place on December 10th, has long been a highlight of the school year at Downtown Elementary School (DTES). Traditionally a celebration of Peter Reynolds’ book “The Dot,” the DTES team puts an International Baccalaureate spin on the festivities by folding in interdisciplinary concepts like math, music, theater, physical education and visual art. 


Anita Walsh, the DTES Artist-in-Residence, has been opening students’ eyes to creativity at Prospect Schools for nearly 15 years. She is the driving force behind Dot Day and its continued popularity with students. Says Anita: “I added in learning about the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and a study of primary colors. We embrace the day of celebration and use art to transform the school. It creates a lot of positive energy for the kids.” This year’s festivities included musical parades in hallways; songs and dancing in class; art, art and more art (!); math problem fun; and a special read-along. 

A well-loved Dot Day tradition sees 5th graders read aloud from various dot-themed books to their Kindergartener schoolmates. At the end of one such reading session, a 5th grader told their teacher: “This was one of the greatest things that ever happened in school. It was so nice and so sweet to read to the Kindergarteners.” Another reader said: “It was so heartwarming to be with them.”

Integrating art projects and curriculum into all aspects of learning is a core philosophy for Anita and the DTES team: “For kids with anxiety or who struggle, art can help calm them. They can use their art time and abilities to self soothe while creating things that make them feel good.”

Students at Clinton Hill Middle School (CHMS) are getting excited about school for different reasons. Says Liz Ryan, a new Prospect parent with two daughters at CHMS: “Within the first week, they were both thrilled and happy to be there.” 

The dedication of her daughters’ teachers quickly had a noticeable impact: “My daughters like learning, which is huge! The girls come home happy and are happy to go into school. I can tell my kids’ voices are considered. They are encouraged and allowed to advocate for themselves.” This kind of student autonomy is possible because of the trusting community and environment that thrive inside Prospect classrooms.

Back at DTES, Program Manager Andrea Molina sees students thriving because faculty and staff facilitate learning in small groups and give extra structured support to the kids who need it. Says Andrea: “I never really understood until I started working here how much effort it takes for a teacher to make sure that all students are really learning. Seeing that happen in person again inspires me.”

Andrea is responsible for family engagement and a host of critical operational functions, allowing her to collaborate with the diverse students, families and staff who make up DTES. “For me it’s motivating to be able to interact with people of different backgrounds. Everyone comes together as a team and shows support for each other.” 

Whether through books about dots, one-on-one instruction or coming together as a team, the people behind Prospect Schools will always work hard to protect that special and distinct sense of community you feel when you spend time in one of our schools.