By Tim Harfmann
From rubber disks to squishy floor tiles you can step on, a new way of shaping young minds is underway at Saint Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.
The Catholic academy’s new classroom is the first in the Brooklyn Diocese to instruct students ranging in age from two-to-five-years-old on how to use their senses.
“Sensory play really activates a whole different center of the brain that helps them really understand their entire world around them; it starts to make sense of the world and has them start to make their own definitions for what things are,” explained Stephanie-Ann Germann, who after years of teaching in the Brooklyn Diocese, is preparing for her first year as principal.
Nearly 80 kids are learning through this method, and when they get back to school, students will be working with a variety of unusual tools.
Tables fit with LED lights that change color with the touch of a remote are among the highlights of the school’s new room.
“Kids can explore that table. They can explore with shadows: What happens when I put my hand on the table? What happens when I put this block on the table?’” explained Ms. Germann.
“I’m just really excited to get started with kids and engaging with families and getting to know more of the community,” she added.
The new principal is off to a fast start. She’s not only looking to make a difference with pre-k and kindergarten children, but students in other grades as well.
Ms. Germann will be replacing the old classroom desks with new ones shaped as triangles. That’ll get the kids to connect.
“You have to put them together in different formations so it leads for collaborative, peer learning. So, whether you make squares or circles or long tables, kids are going to be sitting with each other, and not in isolated rows,” said Ms. Germann.
These desks and hallways are empty now, but in three weeks Ms. Germann and her teachers will be ready.
“It’s really good for kids and at the end of the day, we’re here for kids and we want them to benefit from everything we do,” she said.
In the Brooklyn Diocese, the new school year begins on Wednesday, September 4.