Unification News for December 1998

Creating the Bridgeport Hope School

by Annie I.—Bridgeport, CT

We define culture or culture defines us. We are creators of our reality or products of a reality that surrounds us. Three years ago, a group of parents in Bridgeport decided to create our reality and define the culture of our childrens’ elementary school years. We created Bridgeport Hope School. It is a school that by design and conscious effort, offers opportunities for our childrens’ character education, academic excellence and good citizenship.

School is a fundamental pillar of culture. What children learn in the microcosm of the school culture, is played out through the rest of their years as they become builders of the larger culture.

Teaching involves three components. The first is direct teaching where new words and concepts are introduced to the learner. The second is modeling, where the teacher gives an example to the learner by showing the new concept in action. The third is giving opportunities for the students to try out their new information and integrate it into the framework of knowledge that has already been established. These components of effective teaching are necessary whether the subject is mathematics, grammar of character education.

Significant character themes are chosen by parents at the beginning of the school year from a list of classic virtues. Last year, they included respect, responsibility, generosity, purity, gratitude, world citizenship and right relationship. Each morning, direct instruction is given at a school wide morning meeting. First we sing two songs together. Singing is a wonderful way to gather our hearts and minds at the same place. A parent or teacher presents a lesson about the character theme for that month and then offers a short prayer. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance and finish the meeting with a patriotic song.

The design of our morning meeting provides several important lessons. The obvious lesson is direct instruction and discussion about the character theme. We begin the conversation about a particular virtue and the children themselves continue the conversation in other parts of their day. One mother was pleasantly surprised when she was applauded by her five year old son who told her that she was very generous.

Modeling is an important component of teaching. There are many levels of modeling good character that occur in school. The adult community of a school models respect in their relationships to each other. Parents to teachers, teachers to other teachers and the school head to parents and teachers all have important roles to play in modeling right relationship. When courteous respect and honest communication is practiced among adults, the children have an opportunity to see what civility it breeds.

Good citizenship is nurtured at Bridgeport Hope School through our active program of service learning. Each class chooses community service projects they would like to do. They discuss how they can help others and reflect together on their experience when they have completed the activity. The activities chosen so far this year range from cleaning up the public beach at Seaside Park to developing an on-going inter-generational program at a local nursing home to collecting money for UNICEF on Halloween.

The sensitivity and ability to notice what another needs and to think of ways to help others does not come naturally. When children are given a chance to practice in a focused environment, they internalize the experience and are more likely to use it later. In one of her speeches, Barbara Bush commented that she had developed the habit of reaching out to help someone else when she personally encountered difficult times. That gesture always put her own struggle in perspective. Growing up on a farm in rural New York State, my memory is full of experiences of neighbor helping neighbor. My mother had to cook for a family of ten and yet she was constantly putting in an "extra" casserole for one of the neighbors who needed a little extra help. Through providing opportunities to practice that "reaching out" in their school community, students learn to identify ways they can help their fellow man and then work together with their peers in deciding what to do to reach out and actually help.

The academic program at Bridgeport Hope School follows the Core Knowledge curriculum which is a challenging academic outline covering World civilization, American Civilization, Geography, Math, Science, and Language Arts. Good old fashioned academics, study skills and knowledge of the classics are blended in a contemporary environment creating a dynamic opportunity for academic excellence.

Bridgeport Hope School offers academic programs for students in grades Pre-K through 8th. It is a private, non-profit institution, funded by tuition and donations. Our student body and staff represent a wide multi-cultural mix and families from all cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds are welcome to join us. To find out more about Bridgeport Hope School or to make an appointment to visit, please contact us at :

Bridgeport Hope School
283 Lafayette St.
Bridgeport, CT. 06604
Tel: (203)576-6773
Fax: (203)333-6336
e mail: hopeschool@erols.com

In an effort to reach out and offer tuition assistance for local students, we have started a scholarship fund. Anyone or any business that would like to contribute to the scholarship fund or to sponsor a student, please send your donation to Bridgeport Hope School Scholarship Fund attn. Mrs. Ann I. at the above address.

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