School Profile: Hamilton Heights

Arts For All’s wonderful intern, Leslie Saint-Jour, profiles our school partner Hamilton Heights School.  Hamilton Heights is one of the Literacy Through the Arts sites as well as a longtime workshop partner.

Entering Hamilton Heights Elementary for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. Walking down the quiet hallway and into a quiet classroom filled with bright eyed faces left me immediately impressed!  The kindergartners were eager to start the next hour of class, led by Arts For All’s own Robin Cannon. Robin engages the young students in movement, visual and musical activities offering them an alternative path to literacy.
This is all made possible by Literacy Through the Arts, Arts For All’s ongoing program is offered to kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade children. Literacy Through the Arts uses a multi-arts curriculum including music, movement, drama and visual arts, in order to help students improve reading, writing and verbal expression.

Hamilton Heights Elementary houses slightly more than 200 students and is located in Washington Heights. The school currently has four classes—two kindergarten and two 1st grade—participating in the program. (The first grade classes are taught by Lena Moy-Borgen.) With a large Hispanic population of about 62%, many students encounter language barriers as English is not their first language. Hamilton Heights offers these students another medium to communicate and learn with Literacy Through the Arts. My experience of the kindergarten classes was filled with continued engagement and learning.  The students love Pinkerton—the pink guitar Robin brings to life with a musical personality felt through her strumming and sing-along songs.

The classroom teachers do not hesitate to join in movement exercises and encourage students to participate. This willingness to do whatever it takes for the children to learn and feel comfortable speaks to Hamilton Heights’ mission to offer hands-on learning and multi-disciplinary support for children with varying needs and learning styles. From their interest in the activities and their participation, Hamilton Heights’ teachers are truly committed to fostering a diverse and nurturing learning experience for their students.

Hamilton Heights’ participation in the Literacy Through the Arts program is just one of many ways they have been able to offer their students a varied and complete education valuable to students. The school is the first elementary school in New York City to offer Arabic language classes in grades K-5. This unique opportunity was afforded through a 5 year project run by the Qatar Foundation International.

I left Hamilton Heights’ after my first visit refreshed. The atmosphere at Hamilton Heights Elementary is just that refreshing! This may be attributed to the fact that the elementary school is fairly young, only dating back to 2002 when it was just a program at another school. The school continues to remain young and innovative in its approach to education. Hamilton Heights’ use of resources such as Arts For All’s Literacy Through the Arts as well as their newly acquired Arabic language classes show a great commitment to offering students the secure and valuable education that everyone deserves.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”  – Nelson Mandela.

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