At a Glance

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Our Collaborative, Multidisciplinary, Inquiry-based Approach

Our teachers work with staff developers each year to create essential questions for the social studies curriculum. These essential questions serve as the foundation for our inquiry-based instruction. Additionally, teachers in each grade work collaboratively to shape a curriculum around essential questions that are rooted in the social studies standards and content, but applicable to areas across the curriculum. For example, second-grade classes exploring their local communities wonder, “How can we learn about ourselves by learning about our community?” Fifth-grade classes studying Westward Expansion consider the question, “How can change be both positive and negative?” This methodology challenges students to think critically and independently. We want our students to do more than just memorize facts—we want them to be able to synthesize the information and use their newfound knowledge and skills in sophisticated ways. With this goal in mind, we use the Depth of Knowledge and Habits of Mind methodologies to add rigor to our instruction.

Language Arts

A student sharing a writing project
A proud writer shares her story in class

Children learn to read and write through the workshop model process from Columbia University’s Teachers College which is followed on every grade level for continuity. Students read individually based on their own reading level and interest, they read in pairs, and they read together as an entire class. We encourage a culture of literacy by matching books to readers so that students are excited and motivated to set and reach their own reading goals. Students learn the writing process by first identifying a seed idea, then working to develop the idea through a structured drafting and editing process, and publishing their written work. Our literacy coach, Ms. Stephanie Durham, works with classroom teachers to enhance the curriculum and further develop their professional skills. Ms. Durham’s work is supplemented through our ongoing partnership with Columbia University’s Teachers College. And at PS 9, we use real books, not textbooks and workbooks. Each classroom has its own library, which is supplemented by frequent visits to the Book Hive, our state-of-the-art library.


Our math curriculum is hands-on, which allows teachers to explain concepts through real-life examples and math games. Students learn number sense, operations, data collection, geometry, measurement and patterns, with an overall focus of problem-solving. This year, PS 9 has adopted Singapore Math, widely considered to be the top elementary math curriculum, which is aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards. Opportunities to verbalize their thoughts and strategies give children the chance to clarify their thinking and gain insights from others. Our math coach, Ms. Cheryl Sealey, provides the staff with resources, books and ongoing professional development in mathematics, in conjunction with the professional development in mathematics provided through our partnership with AUSSIE.


An igloo made out of plastic bottles
A classroom igloo project uses recycled materials

Our science curriculum focuses on children developing their awareness and curiosity about the natural and built worlds that surround them by using the scientific process. In our science lab, students investigate, and create and test hypotheses through experiments. Our two science specialists, Ms. Codrington and Ms. Nurse, work with classroom teachers to link the science standards to the curriculum across the grades. We aim to integrate science content with other core curriculum – social studies, literacy, and mathematics, and our science team collaborates with specialists in other areas – art, music, technology, physical education/health and culinary arts. In addition, the science specialists provide professional development in science for our classroom teachers and work with our PTO to seek out grants for science equipment, trips, and in-service programs. We have also forged a partnership with NYU-Poly, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, with the goal of constantly updating and enhancing our science and technology instruction.

Social Studies

The goal of our Social Studies curriculum is to allow students to ask essential questions, probing them to learn more about the world beyond their classroom, in order to develop awareness and a sense of social responsibility, justice, and commitment to humanity.  Our teachers provide social studies instruction in the classroom two times per week.

Essential questions are the basis of all of our social studies units.  Geography, culture, history, politics and economics are woven throughout our interdisciplinary social studies curriculum.  Teachers use historical fiction, narrative accounts, primary sources, and other non-fiction writing to bring understanding to their students.  Mapping is part of the study so that students can develop and expand their sense of place.  Timelines  help students understand the when in history.  Students learn the art of note-taking and the difference between fact and opinion.  Projects are an essential part of the social studies curriculum and applied learning will tie into these studies.  We engage in the IIM method, which allows our students to create projects that include map making, murals, reports, biographies, student presentations, singing songs, dairies, three-dimensional models, and oral presentations.  This instructional model also enables our students to be independent researchers.  Field trips allow teachers to use the city and beyond to give meaning to the curriculum.  Throughout the studies, it is essential that the students relate what they are learning to their life in New York City.

Reading and writing, science and math all play a role in our social studies curriculum.  Read alouds, shared reading, independent reading and small group reading and writing, studies of myths and folktales, and research skills are some examples of literacy as a part of social studies.  Mapping skills, model making, time lines, grids and graphs are skills that use mathematical understanding.  Social studies units  include both social and physical science.  Students learn about environments and health, animals and habitats, geology and ecosystems, natural resources and weather, as well as food chains and life cycles.  They also learn about various structures throughout NYC.

Cluster Classes

We have Science, physical education, Spanish and dance teachers on staff. All students get specialized instruction in each of these subjects once a week. Some grades also have chorus.

School Wide Enrichment Program

A student holding an art project
A student recreates a landmark during an enrichment class provided through PS9’s partnership with the Guggenheim Museum

To supplement our core curriculum, P.S. 9 provides our entire student population the opportunity to explore and develop their talents through special-interest courses that take place on Fridays.  This program is based on the work of professors Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis of the University of Connecticut’s Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Through their research, Renzulli and Reis discovered that by identifying interests and learning styles, and providing an engaging educational environment with personalized curriculum, any student could achieve academic success. PS 9’s enrichment courses provide challenging, real world learning for all students, at any grade level, who share common interests.  Students choose the topic that interests them most and work in small groups with staff members and community volunteers. During the enrichment course, students and the facilitator  pursue challenging learning experiences that lead to the production of an end product. In delving into a topic, such as Bookmaking, Set Design or Afro-Caribbean Music, students learn and develop advanced research skills such as critical inquiry, problem solving, and creative thinking. And in creating a final project for these courses,  students get a chance to think, feel, and act like a practicing professional. Through our enrichment program, students are exposed to a wide variety of experiences that may not be available in the essential curriculum.  Guest speakers, demonstration, field trips, documentaries and other resources are available to expose students to a wide variety of disciplines, topics, occupations and hobbies. In addition to our stand-alone enrichment classes, PS 9 subscribes to the online Renzulli Learning system, which allows classroom teachers to more effectively provide interest-based instruction and enrichment to all students throughout the school year. And through our long roster of partnerships with community arts organizations such as the Guggenheim Museum, Studio in a School and LAVA acrobatics, we provide a high level of arts enrichment at all grade levels.