Tech charter about more than just computers


Groups of Tech International Charter School students squinted through microscopes at slices of tree stumps on Monday.

Guests from Wave Hill roamed around the classroom helping sixth graders guess what weather conditions, bugs or other predators may have cracked, gouged or marked the stumps. After making individual assessments, the class shared its discoveries. Stumps with larger gaps between their rings probably, “got a lot of rain and sun,” Litzy Acosta announced.

Though the new Tech International Charter School emphasizes electronics, software and how they can connect students with their peers across the globe, elements of the school environment are far from technologically based. Between Skyping with partner schools in Mexico, Canada, France and India, students are served family-style lunches of glass noodles and edamame. The school’s 145 students have embarked on a year-long study of the plant community with partners from the Wave Hill public gardens.

Tech International Charter School, which is the only area charter school not affiliated with a charter organization, started its inaugural academic year with 145 sixth graders on Aug. 27. The middle school will add a class each year and eventually expand from the first and third floors to the bottom four floors of 3120 Corlear Ave. In 2013, the school intends to revise its charter to educate high school students, as well.

Tech International only enrolls District 10 students, but it’s co-founder and principal Adjowah Scott says its scope became global when the school teamed up with six schools in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Social studies classes are collaborating on a history timeline with the American School Foundation in Mexico. Other classes will shoot videos describing their daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. academic routine and share them with partner schools via YouTube. Glockstar, a blog that allows students to use music, photos and text, will also be used for international exchanges.

“We are an independent charter. We have our own thing. The idea of infusing technology and international themes together is one that we haven’t come across before,” Ms. Scott said. “I believe kids should know about the world because it gives you more options ... And I believe in the power of technology, especially when it comes to getting kids involved in education.”

The school will distribute computers and memory sticks. Every classroom has a SMART Board and staff will unveil a Kindle reading initiative in January, Ms. Scott said. Parents will be invited to workshops that explain some of the technology their children use at school.

Students start and end their day with homeroom and cycle through four core classes –– math, English Language Arts, history and science. Teachers craft a “lab” period around their interests, offering students quarterly courses such as the influence of media and singing and music. A “kid project development” class on Tuesdays and Thursdays splits students into groups, where they discuss themes such as communities around the world or arts and entrepreneurship, and work on related projects.

Sixth graders also have an independent study period.

“It’s designed to give students study skills and teach organization. Some of our kids don’t get home until six. And if they got home that late, we don’t think they should have an hour and a half of homework,” Ms. Scott said.

Officials criticized the school for opening without a gym, cafeteria or outdoor play space at a District 10 Community Education Council meeting on the proposed school. However, Ms. Scott said having teachers serve lunch in homeroom helps students bond. In letters describing their school to The Press, students, including Karisha Esber, said they enjoyed the setup and healthy food provided by Butter Beans, which strives to use organic, and locally grown ingredients.

“It’s better because like that we don’t have food fights or make a lot of noise,” Karisha wrote.

As for the gym, she said the school plans to organize a pledge-style fund raiser for a New York City Marathon relay team. Tech International is raising money to knock down walls separating three large rooms in the basement to create a recreational space. For now, the school is taking advantage of the warm weather and sending kids out to play in nearby parks.

“Right now we’re worried about the day to day,” she said. “It’s about doing it well.”