We know that Buffalo Public School District test scores and scholarships are on the rise, due in part to curriculum set in place by Superintendent of schools Dr. James A. Williams, and through partnership with a University at Buffalo.
Yesterday, national attention was given to the great initiatives set in place by UB and the Buffalo Public Schools in this New York Times article. Groundbreaking research through a program called “Building Blocks” at the Stanley M. Makowski Early Childhood Center, Buffalo Public School 99, has netted information based on cognitive science in relationship to how young minds work.
Principal Dawn DiNatale (left) points out that P.S. 99 has 7 pre-kindergarten classrooms, and says that through training and support from UB, teachers were able to construct learning activities that foster independent thinking amongst this age group that previously, as a national standard, wasn’t presented with headier parts of learning, such as math. The happy result of discovering the cognitive abilities of students brings educators more effective models for teaching.
“The District had already set our own program, ‘Investigations,’ in place for kindergarten and 1st grade, and our teachers found that Building Blocks works very well with it,” DiNatale says. Part of Investigations involves a computer program that uses games to reinforce learning. According to DiNatale, the research component, this year’s 2nd graders, have shown great improvement in their cognitive math skills as a result of the combined programs. “The teachers like it because It’s helped them to develop and implement new ways of teaching,” she says.
A large part of the Building Blocks program, as described in the NYT article, is linking numbers to the physical world. Enhancing the spatial and quantitative relationships to the idea of numbers is a concept these young minds can grasp early, setting them up for academic success moving forward. The research then, has given the students and their teachers discovery through experience, which DiNatale says is the key to knowing the best ways to teach.
The Stanley M. Makowski School is located at 1095 Jefferson Avenue on Buffalo’s East Side. It is a member of the International Baccalaureate Program and serves students in grades pre-k through 4.
Photos courtesy of David Torke, fixbuffalo.com