UPPER WEST SIDE — The halls of a local K-8 school were transformed into a series of museum exhibitions Wednesday as part of a biannual celebration of students' work.
P.S. 191, rebranded as the Museum Magnet School with the help of a four-year federal grant, showcased its commitment to project-based learning through the daylong festival "Dream.Think. Do!"
Inside the 519-student Amsterdam Avenue school, students implored parents, classmates, teachers and District 3 DOE employees to look at their projects, which were jutting from hallway walls and overtaking whole corners of classrooms.
Papier-mâché ants crawled up a wall next to fact sheets about their life cycle, a giant leafy tree illustrated a rainforest's layers, and handmade African masks accompanied retellings of African myths.
The projects "encourage group interaction and collaboration," explained Chris Burns, a fifth-grade teacher at the school.
Having each student build on a common theme with their own addition, whether it's a poster, art, video, map or written work, "allows them to pursue things that are important to them," he said.
His class focused on biodiversity in the rainforests and merited a trip to the American Museum of Natural History, one of the institutions that partners with the school as part of P.S.191's magnet mission, Burns noted.
The showcase day "represents the ability to see in action the core message of the school, which is project-based learning and using the institutions around us," he said.
For special-education students, showing their work to the rest of the school helps their self-esteem, added Alessandra de Belegarde, who teaches math and science to fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade special-ed students.
In studying the human body, one student devoted himself to building a skeleton from paper and tape — a project that played to his strengths, the teacher explained.
The day is also special because it "builds community" within the school, said Raji Menon, who teaches eighth-grade science.
"It shows the kids as experts," she said. "The kids want to be out there showing off their work."