Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School takes full advantage of its position in Center City’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood .

“The opportunities at Greenfield are endless,” said sixth-grader Jael Hillard. “There are so many things to do and a lot of positive people that influence your life. I’m really enjoying my experience at Greenfield.”

From collaborations with local arts and cultural organizations, businesses and associations, to urban explorations and service projects, Greenfield offers K-8 students a unique education.

“Our middle school curriculum is geared toward preparing students for high school,” said principal Daniel Lazar. “We’re looking at what the demands of high school are, where we want are students to be, and what high schools we want them to be in. We’ve built our curriculum around the requisite skills and the ability to analyze not only the literature, but the world around them.When you hit all areas for students in the arts and cultural areas as well as academic areas, your create a well-rounded worldly student.

“When the students leave here, I want them to have an understanding that they are a part of the world around them and that they have a place in it. They have to be able to analyze it, make sense of it, and react in a way that is appropriate versus just reacting.”

Adding to the students’ enthusiasm is the high caliber of the teachers. Students appreciate the academic aptitude of their teachers as well as the personal investments they make in them.

Students in Jesse Staab’s eighth-grade social studies class aren’t just learning about the American Revolution, World War II and Nazi propaganda, but are also learning about current events like Stand Your Ground laws.

“With the Stand Your Ground law, we talked about what the law means and how it changed the right to retreat, which was very normal for many in regard to the Second Amendment,” Staab said.

“In the future, we will be looking at the causes of the Civil War, World War II, and immigrant experiences through the photographs of Jacob Riis. When we look at World War II, we will look at Nazi propaganda and how Hitler created hatred. We’ll compare what the students learned last year about genocide in Rwanda to the situations in Syria today.”

Staab’s style of teaching is very nontraditional, which makes him a favorite among students. Instead of using textbooks, he uses documents, images, videos, news clips and articles.

“Mr. Staab’s class is the best,” said eighth-grader Meeghan Keesten. “He doesn’t like to use the textbook, because he thinks it’s boring, so we do a lot of interactive work which is great. When we do do things in the textbook, it’s really not for that long. Not only does he teach us about the different events that took place in history in the past, but he also does a great job of connecting it to what’s going on in the world today. I really like his class.”

Eighth-grader Lauren Wilson said Staab’s class has prepared her for high school

“Mr. Staab is a great teacher,” Wilson said. “He gives us a decent amount of homework in his class, so that will help us when we go to high school.”

To help prepare students for high school, Greenfield changed it literacy curriculum to novel-based. The move was spearhead by the school’s sixth- and eighth-grade literacy teacher John Neary.

“Principal Lazar gives the teachers a lot of freedom and say in developing the curriculum at the school,” Neary said. “That’s one of the things that I was able to do early on, add novel units into the school district curriculum. Before, the district’s curriculum centered around an anthology elements.

“Literature anthology, included a collection of poems, short essays, and essays,” he added. “There really wasn’t any authentic literature included in the curriculum. Principal Lazar enabled me to decide and choose different novels and purchase them. Now we have a completely novel-based literacy curriculum in sixth to eighth grade. What I’m trying to do is prepare the students for high school and beyond.”

“In addition to novels, they read nonfiction texts over the course of the year. I also include vocabulary instruction, grammar, writing and reading. Students learn the steps for the writing process as well as the traits and criteria for good writing. The students learn how each trait matches with what’s in the writing process. The students also do a lot of narrative, persuasive, and informational writing in my class.”

For sixth-grader Ellen Lehman, being in Neary’s class has introduced her to new areas of literacy.

“In literacy, we learning about new vocabulary, evidence-based claims, and the writing process. We’re reading a book called ‘The Waiting Game’ by Ellen Raskin. The book is a mystery novel and it’s really good. I like reading it. A lot of the things that I’m learning I never knew before, so it’s exciting to be able to learn more about different subjects at Greenfield.”

Extracurricular activities at the school include Scrabble Club, Homework Club, Science Club, Health Club, Art Club, Yoga Club, Spanish Club, String Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Newspaper, Yearbook, American Girl Club. Business Club, Student Council, Learning Club, Safety Patrol, Sports Club, Kickball, Chess Club and Math 24 Club.

“My experience at Greenfield has been good,” said eighth-grader Cameron Coles. “I play the viola and participate in choir. We have a lot of good programs, excellent academics, and great teachers. The teachers always look out for us. They really do a good job of preparing us for the next level and beyond.”

Sixth-grader Larson Kaufmann is a junior coach with Playworks at the school.

“We go outside and assist with recess for first- and second-graders,” Kaufmann said. “I help out every Monday. We organize games and help students have fun. It’s a really good experience because you’re not only showing your leadership skills, but you’re also helping the younger students have fun at recess.”

chill@phillytrib.com

(215) 893-5716

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