|The premise of the Museum School
is this: The museums of New York have the tools to give children a liberal-arts
education -- not just an appreciation of fine art but also a firm foundation
in fundamentals like science, history, and English.
Students here learn to do research in the great Egyptian collection
of the Brooklyn Museum, the laboratories of the American Museum of Natural
History, and the galleries of the Jewish Museum. High-school students
visit museums at least two afternoons a week. When they study immigration,
they visit Ellis Island and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum to relive
the newcomers' experience. When they study the French Revolution, they
visit the lavish Rococo-period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
to get an idea of the excesses of the ancien régime. They
learn to use the collections the way museum professionals do.
That said, "we're dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists, both of us," says
Sonnet Takahisa. A former Brooklyn Museum assistant director, she and
Ron Chaluisan, formerly a Lab School teacher, founded the Museum School
in 1994, aiming to offer an education with the academic rigor of a traditional
college-preparatory school and the fun of a progressive elementary school.
While the teachers are still working out the kinks on how to match the
math and science curricula with the Regents exams, the high school boasts
a nearly 100 percent passing rate in Regents exams in English and 93 percent
Parents call the high-school teachers "awesome," "inspiring," "really
wonderful." A mother who has one child at Stuyvesant and another at Museum
says the teaching at the latter is superior.
How hard is it to get in? Children may be admitted in either
sixth or ninth grade. In sixth grade, candidates are interviewed by the
faculty. They participate in a mini-class and are asked to write an essay,
solve a math problem, and observe an object and describe it. In ninth
grade, students are accepted based on the educational-option formula.
In recent years, the school has been particularly popular among Brooklyn
Downsides: Like most other new schools, the Museum School has
had its share of growing pains. Teacher turnover was rapid in the first
few years. At first, most middle-school students left for high school,
and the entering ninth-graders had trouble adjusting. But seven years
into Museum's existence, more than half of its eighth-grade class stays
for high school.