Teen Thursdays at BLDG 92

In 2014, NYC School’s Chancellor Carmen Farina announced a new program called Teen Thursdays, which pairs cultural institutions with middle schools to provide afterschool programming. Brooklyn Historical Society was proud to be a part of that pilot year, and to participate in the program’s expansion this year to our partner site at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92. They recorded their sessions on Tumblr (including a video of their final performance!) Here, Janise Mitchell, School Programs Educator at BHS & BLDG 92, reflects on the program.


 

A group of warmly dressed pre-teens stand in a group and make poses for the camera

The Teen Thursdays group hamming it up for the camera on a walking tour to historic Dry Dock #1, completed in 1851 and still in use today by GMD Shipyard.

For seven weeks this fall, middle school students from Fort Greene Preparatory Academy were selected to participate in a new Teen Thursdays program at BLDG 92, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Despite the close proximity to their school, few students had ever been inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Once inside the gates, students were amazed at the size and scope of the area (the Navy Yard sits on 300 acres in the area formerly known as the Wallabout Bay!). You can imagine it like an urban “Secret Garden.” The students took a tour of BLDG 92’s green roof to gain insight into how BLDG 92 is a model for sustainable urban parks. They also took a closer look at the oldest continually used dry dock in the country, currently operated by GMD Ship Yard.

I was pleased to have been a part of the debut of Teen Thursdays at BLDG 92. Having been a teacher for over twenty years, I can say that one of the biggest challenges is having students make connections between books and “real life.” Our weekly sessions allowed deeper and more sustained units of investigation in a context that directly connected to students’ lives.

For example, one week we had students complete a scavenger hunt. This activity encouraged students to examine, observe and think about how Brooklyn has changed over time, using the galleries of BLDG 92 as a learning laboratory.

For their culminating activity, students focused on a pivotal time in American history: World War II.  We were fortunate to have powerful oral histories of the women and men who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the War. My co-teacher Heather and I had students listen to these oral histories and then create original skits based on the characters reminiscent of the “Spoon River Anthology.”  We used material from the students’ skits and interspersed them with the original oral histories in their final performance. It was fitting that the dramatic reading took place in the World War II exhibit at BLDG 92.  The gallery exhibit contained original artifacts from the war. As students read their lines underneath the portraits of women and men who contributed to the war effort, it felt like the exhibit came to life.

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