Fried Onions, Feather Beds, and Intro to Chinese

A typical day at Brooklyn Free School.

  • 8:30 a.m.: The doors of Brooklyn Free School open. You might be surprised at how quiet it is in the “big room.” Students are slowly trickling in and are serving themselves breakfast, eating, reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, talking about the events of the day before, a magazine article, a YouTube video, anything at all. Four mornings a week we make breakfast: muffins on Mondays, scones on Tuesdays and Thursdays and pancakes on Friday.
  • Mid-morning:  The hum of activity has built to a crescendo.The big room becomes the center of large group activities like baking, crafting,and sewing projects. Classes are under way in the teen lounge. Lunch is being prepared and onions are frying. Alan Berger and his staff volunteer administrators are bent over laptops.

    Photo by Gia Rae Winsryg-Ulmer

    Outside, kids are playing tag, four square or riding scooters and skateboards. Downstairs, the younger kids might be in rooms building forts, playing with blocks or Legos, doing puzzles, playing dress up, creating plays, having a dance party or putting together a jam session with keyboards and electric guitars. In the classroom, kids gather to do quiet activities or get involved in teacher-led classes like philosophy, math, reading, writing, and science experiments; there’s also a snuggle corner with a feather bed and pillows for curling up to read, and a writing area known as “the office.”


Photo by Gia Rae Winsryg-Ulmer

  • Noon:  It’s lunch time! Kids sit down with teachers and interns to eat family style. After lunch, afternoon classes like Intro to Chinese, Black Studies, Art, Spanish and Revolutions happen. Younger kids might take a trip to the park or spend time on the computer playing games, watching videos, or doing research.

    At anytime a meeting between kids with or without adults might be going on to solve problems ranging from children being excluded from play to policy around the use of computers and video games. Twice a month we have our all-school democratic meeting where larger school issues are addressed.

  • 2:30 p.m. Everyone has a cleaning job before we end the school day. The little kids put games and Legos back in their bins. Others sweep the hallways and wash dishes. When chores are done, we eat a snack of cheese, crackers, and some kind of fruit.  Younger students always get a story at the end of the day. Since it’s nearly Halloween, Gia Rae makes up a story about scary ghosts and a lost puppy.  If it’s someone’s birthday – and we celebrate all 60 students and staff birthdays – we have an appreciation circle and cake for everyone!

    Back to Gia’s Story



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