Grantee Corner  |  Community School District 28



Community School District 28 is part of the New York City Department of Education, the largest public schools system in the United States, which serves 1.1 million students in over 1,700 schools. District 28 is a dense urban community consisting of housing projects, low-rise apartments, individual homes, multifamily homes, and mixed-use industrial buildings. Located in central Queens, it encompasses the diverse neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Springfield Gardens, Jamaica, Rochdale, South Ozone Park, and Richmond Hills. The district’s 48 elementary, middle, and high schools enroll 40,433 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. District 28 received Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) funds for three Title I elementary schools: PS 80: The Thurgood Marshall Magnet School of Multimedia and Communication; PS 160: The Walter Francis Bishop Magnet School of the Arts; and PS 354: The Magnet STEM Institute of Queens. 

The Thurgood Marshall School for Multimedia and Communications, PS 80, uses Paideia’s Three Columns of Instruction: 1) Didactic Instruction to deliver of factual information; 2) Intellectual Coaching to guide students through modeling and questioning activities; and 3) Paideia Seminar to expand students’ understanding of ideas, concepts, and values through collaborative, intellectual dialog. The school has created specialty classes that include Debate Class/Team Competition, World Languages, and Photojournalism. In addition, the school has a multimedia partnership with The New York Historical Society. PS 80 events introduce the community to their new school and connect families to the curriculum in a fun and meaningful way. Enjoyable science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) challenges such as extracting DNA from strawberries; designing armor for eggs in an “egg drop” competition; and using blueprints to design, build, and test a variety of structures made out of Legos have strengthened the home-school connection for families at PS 80.

The Walter Francis Bishop School of the Arts, PS 160, uses active learning models to motivate, engage, and sustain students’ interest in a diverse set of experiences in fine and applied arts. Ongoing professional development and residency collaborations with skilled art educators enable classroom teachers to integrate the process, content, and context of art into core subject areas. Some examples of these collaborations in theater, dance, architecture, engineering, visual arts, and music include The American Orff-Schulwerk Association, Turtle Bay Music School, Jamaica Arts Center, Eavesdrop Performance, Midori Instrumental Program, Young Audiences New York, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The school has created specialty classes that include Brazilian Percussion and Dance, Chess, Guitar, Ballroom Dancing, and Culinary Arts. Monthly afterschool science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) experiences attract families from across the district.

The STEM Magnet Institute of Queens, PS 354, offers an innovative, hands-on engineering curriculum. Students work on projects that require them to apply their math, science, reading, and communication skills as they inquire, imagine, plan, create, and improve their designs. Students are beginning to think like STEM professionals in the way they approach problems and plan solutions. Themed units promote STEM competencies through the integration of technology; problem-based learning; the engineering design cycle; and science centers, which encourage experimentation, observation, and inquiry. In addition, the school is building a STEM Lab/Think Tank where students, faculty, and community can investigate, think critically, solve complex problems, and drive advancements in science and technology. Partners include Imagine Learning and Destination Reading; Aha!Math and Aha!Science; Rosetta Stone; Discovery; BrainPOP; The New York Hall of Science; Liberty Science Center; and Columbia University. Families attend schoolwide STEM Expos of students’ STEM investigations, science experiments, and problem-based learning projects. In addition, the school is hosting its first STEM Career Day, which will use classroom visits from local STEM professionals and college counselors to teach students about STEM careers and how to attain them.

All three magnet schools, regardless of their specific theme, have a STEM component. All schools use Engineering is Elementary, an engineering curriculum designed for grades K-5, and Lego WeDo Robotics, a cross-curricular series of theme-based activities where students solve problems by building curricular integrated objects using Lego bricks and adding movement with drag-and-drop software.

Moreover, a major partnership has been established with The New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), creating STEM-related residencies, professional development opportunities, parent and family programs, afterschool programs, recruitment support, and service learning projects that bring NYIT professionals and undergraduate science and engineering majors into the classroom. A joint NYIT/District 28 Magnet Leadership Team has been created to ensure sustainability of the partnership beyond the funding period of the grant.

New York City offers unique opportunities for partnerships and access to world-class museums, cultural institutions, universities, nonprofits, and businesses. The District 28 MSAP project is excited to take advantage of these opportunities as they forge relationships, build their programs, and expand their classrooms beyond the schoolhouse doors.

The District 28 MSAP project director is Todd Levitt of the New York City Department of Education Office of School Support. Mr. Levitt has over 20 years of experience as a music technology teacher and district-level administrator. Since 2003 he has worked as a Magnet Resource Specialist, Magnet Project Planner, and Magnet Project Director with MSAP grants in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens.

See Grantee Corner Archive