school for the visual arts & sciences

PS 84 Black History Month Celebration featured in the news

PS 84 Celebrates Black History Month


What do the fire escape ladder, carbon filament production, and modern hair care have in common? All were invented by African-American visionaries. This was just one of many discoveries by the attendees at PS 84’s second annual MKL/Black History Month Event.


On Friday, February 17th, students regaled parents, school staff and their classmates with highly energetic and informative performances, all focused on African-American history. The show was developed by the Greenpoint Y’s Offsite KIC Y Afterschool program, which, in addition to “promoting creativity and a love of learning…encourages the importance of inclusion among the world’s many cultures.”


The 5 year olds gave their own versions of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, wishing that we all smile, play together, and help one another achieve equality and world peace. The 6 and 7 year olds presented a world without the contributions of African-Americans. People would have bad hair (without the beauty products of Madam C. J. Walker – the first woman to become a millionaire), walk around in the dark (without Lewis Howard Latimer’s method for manufacturing carbon filaments in light bulbs), and be trapped in fires (without the invention of the fire escape ladder by Joseph B. Winters), they explained.


Members of the Feraba-African Rhythm Tap Dance Company stole the show. Master dancer and Guinea native Yalani Bangoura’s acrobatic demonstrations of traditional African dances amazed everyone. Percussionist and teacher Ibrahima Kolepe and his students Niko Koloseus and Aliseni Bangoura (Yalani’s son), both barely older than the PS 84 students, wowed with their powerful demonstrations of African drumming. In their last piece, “Makuru,” Yalani Bangoura asked for some volunteers, to which the kids obliged, happily dragging their parents to the stage. Entire families and YMCA volunteers then got an impromptu lesson in African dance, with arms waving in the air and thighs shaking madly to the beat.


The Feraba Company was a tough act to follow, but the eight year olds did not disappoint. Beginning with a scene in which African-Americans are forced to give up their seats, the students then portrayed several Black heroes, including Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Step Dancers, aged 9-12, then gave a brief history and demonstration of tap dancing. The demanding dance style, with deep roots in African-American culture, has influenced many forms of entertainment and was even performed by soldiers during World War II as entertainment. Kids tap danced both in the aisles and onstage, drawing massive applause from the school and the impressed Feraba Company.


“The children responded well and that’s really important to me,” said a smiling Yalani Bangoura. “They were wonderful! We had a great time teaching them about music and I hope the Y calls us again.”
KIC Afterschool Coordinator Karina Montoya agrees. “It was such a great event and the school supported us very much. And the kids worked really hard. The Step Dancers practiced for over a month!”


The success of the show was also particularly important as a way of strengthening cultural bonds in the Williamsburg community. “We have a have a large Latino population at the school,” said the school’s PTA President, Ileana Santos-Moya. “So it’s great that we show their connection to African culture. And now everyone can see that we’re all connected.”


Get ready for March when PS 84 will celebrate Women’s History Month with a new show called “I’m Every Woman.”


Fundraising Report



First Annual Gala Benefit Auction, Saturday May, 5, 2012. The goal for this year’s benefit is to raise money for our $50,000 effort for music and art in our school.  We are currently soliciting businesses, parents and friends for donations of items and services for us to auction. So far we have more than 20 donations to the auction. Tickets will go on sale on April 1, and will cost $25.  We will need volunteers to help sell tickets, set up the space and clean up afterwards.  If you want to help, please contact Courtney Smith at


In order to expand the music program, we are doing an inventory of our two music rooms.   Parents Chris Tokar, Jordan Margolis, and David Ransom are working on ithis.  We are currently prepping the music room to be repainted and organized.  If you would like to help, please contact Jordan Margolis at


Parent Chris Tokar is working on a grant for the Music room due May 15.  She is also investigating additional grants. Parent Vivian Moses is researching art and green grants.  If you want to suggest a grant, or assist in grant writing, please contact Chris Tokar @


Garden Party, June 2nd, 2012.   The event will take place in our schoolyard and will be the official launch for the Greenhouse classroom project. We will need volunteers to set up the event, to sell tickets, and to do various craft activities.  If you want to help, please contact Liz Santiago at

Our Direct Donations Campaign is on its way.  You have received our first round of direct appeal letters asking parents, family and friends to donate to our school. Please fill out the donation form and write checks to the PS84 PTA.  You can bring it into the front office.  We are working on making it possible to donate online. Look for our meter in the lobby for updates. If you have any questions please e-mail Elka Nikolova at

We are looking for book donations to expand and rejuvenate our book collection.  To donate books to the library, please visit our website under fundraising.  Holly McDade has created a Library Wish List, which is posted there.  The library will accept additional donations of course, so keep bringing in those books!  A law firm is donating $10,000 toward the expansion of the library.  We will create a drama room with a small stage and a puppet theater.  Also a group from that same law firm will be helping with the set up of the library in addition to the two music rooms. If you'd like to learn more about the library, please e-mail Holly McDade at


If your company would like to follow up in the footsteps of the law firm that adopted our school by donating funds and providing community service, please contact Elka Nikolova at


Matching donations: If you work for a company, which has matching grants please consider asking them to match your contribution to P.S. 84. If you have any questions please contact David Ransom at David will provide you with our tax ID number and a letter from the PTA.

Boxtops for Education fundraising -  please continue to collect box tops cutouts and shop online to earn money for our school.  We have 48 parents and supporters registered at the Boxtops for Education website but we need more.  Please register at and choose P.S. 84 as your school to support.  If you have questions please e-mail Ileana Santos Moya at



The Benefits of Bilingualism

From the New York Times:


Why Bilinguals Are Smarter


SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.


This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.


They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.


Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.


In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.


The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.


Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.


The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompea Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.


The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).


In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.


Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.


Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?


Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.



This Wednesday, March 7th, Uproar Art is going to be building a collaborative surrealist collage with visual artist Thomas Carroll through the cooperation of our arts teacher, Mr. Soto. 


Williamsburg based Uproar Art provides not-for-profit art programs designed for kids and teens.  They offer intensive, skill-based, technical and creative education in a structured, nurturing and individualized learning environment.  The classes are off the beaten path, innovative, socially conscious and designed to test the boundaries of young artists.   Their instructors are experts working in the field, who also must have teaching experience.  These programs are a haven for creativity, personal growth and making creative friends.

Visit Uproar Art's website to learn more.


Mark your calendars!  Planning is already underway for our First Annual Gala Benefit Auction on Saturday, May 5th, 2012.  The goal for this year’s benefit is to raise money toward our $50,000 effort for music, art and science in our school.  It is an exciting opportunity for the P.S. 84 community to come together to celebrate our school. This gala is our biggest fundraising event for the year.  We are looking forward to your participation in making our school the best elementary school in Williamsburg.

The evening will include a silent auction, great food, drinks, live music and a DJ. Tickets are $25 per person and will go on sale during the month of April. In order to make our first Gala event successful, we need as much help as you can provide. We are looking for donations from parents, businesses, relatives, artists, or anyone who can donate something that we can auction to raise money for our school. 


We are working on finalizing the event space, and we will reach to you as soon we have that in place. Come and join us for good food, life music, lots of fun and get to know your schools community. We are looking for volunteers to help in the every stage of the planning and execution of this event.


If you want to help, please contact Courtney Smith at


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