Brooklyn kids teach parents importance of voting

New American Academy hosts curriculum celebration

November 30, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dr. Marcus Bright, executive director of the organization Better Education for America, chats with a student at the curriculum celebration. Photo courtesy of New American Academy Charter School
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At the New American Academy Charter School, the kids are teaching their parents a few things. 

Students at the Canarsie school are happily helping their guardians develop a variety of useful skills, like how to prepare a meal with healthy ingredients and how to register to vote. 

And the role reversal has the blessing of Headmaster is Lisa Parquette Silva. “We have small group instruction here. The parents are involved,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The partnership was on full display at the charter school’s recent Curriculum Celebration, an event that gave kids a chance to show what they have learned in class so far this year.

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As their parents watched in awe, the children presented the results of their work in the school’s H.E.A.R.T.S. (Humility, Empowerment, Aspiration, Responsibility, Teamwork and Scholarship) program.

The Curriculum Celebration, which takes place five times a year, is a popular event at the school.

The New American Academy Charter School boasts a unique configuration. Instead of grades, it groups youngsters together in cohorts. Each cohort has approximately 65 students. The classroom teachers are referred to as line teachers. Master teachers are also there to serve as mentors to the line teachers.

Located at 9301 Ave. B, the school falls within the boundaries of School District 18.

Notably, each grade in the school is named in honor of a prominent African-American in history. Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Thurgood Marshall and Barack Obama are just some of the illustrious people represented. The school gladly accepts nominations for new names from parents.

The recent Curriculum Celebration gave master teacher Jenny Tranni and her second graders, known as Team Angelou after poet Maya Angelou, a chance to shine.

Their topic: “How to Use Heart to Govern Our Communities.”

“It’s about the importance of being active in our community, being a participant in the community,” Tranni told the Eagle.

The mature-beyond-their-years kids even gave a PowerPoint presentation.

“We learned about registering to vote. They had their parents register to vote. They transformed the classroom into a voting site. They gave ‘I Voted’ stickers to their parents,” Tranni said.

The fifth graders, known as Team Marshall after the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, focused on the topic of healthy foods.

“The students investigated how to eat healthy,” master teacher Sheila Osnes told the Eagle.

The key focus of the project was to foster the communications skills of the students, according to Osnes. “They talked to each other,” she said.

The youngsters took the bull by the horns and wrote to the food service supervisors for School District 18 to find out about food choices and menu preparation.

Science also came into play for the project. The kids used testing techniques to determine how much fat and sugar various foods contained. “They taught their parents how to do experiments. They planned healthy menus. We had a pot luck meal. Parents brought dishes,” Osnes said.

The delicious pot luck dishes included whole wheat pasta, low-fat mozzarella balls, salads and hummus.

As part of the Curriculum Celebration, the school’s students also organized charitable and social awareness campaigns focusing on hurricane relief, Save the Earth, anti-bullying, Stop the Violence and Feed the Hungry.

Along with the parents, the school invited guests to attend, including state Assemblymember Nick Perry (D-Canarsie-Brownsville-East Flatbush); L. Joy Williams, president of the Brooklyn Chapter of NAACP; and Dr. Marcus Bright, who along with his wife Dominique Sharpton, is the executive director of the nonprofit organization Better Education for America. 

Bright, who holds a Ph.D. in public administration, is also an administrator at Medgar Evers College. He was impressed by what he saw at the Curriculum Celebration. 

“This is an example of what creativity and innovation can do to raise the level of academic achievement of students and motivate them to enjoy their school experience,” he said in a statement.

Bright said he was pleased to see students learning about voting and civic engagement. “Kids won’t turn out to vote as adults if civics is foreign to them,” he said.

The New American Academy Charter School opened in September of 2013 with a kindergarten class and a first-grade class. Part of the school’s mission is “to build a relationship between the teachers, students and families,” Parquette Silva said.

The enrollment is done through a lottery system. The school has a support team and uses tools such as emotional learning to encourage children to reach their full potential.

The kids learn about computer coding, take part in innovative music programs and regularly discuss how to be leaders in their neighborhoods. 

“We teach our students to be good citizens,” Parquette Silva told the Eagle. “Our students look out for each other. We encourage them to be looking out for No. 2 instead of looking out for No. 1.”

For more information on the New American Academy Charter School, visit


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