Grade 2 Celebrates All Things NYC

Proud authors and artists shared the results of their research about the City of New York with guests at a celebratory Publishing Party at the Lower School recently.

Grade 2 NYC history sara and nina

As part of their study, each of Sarah Davies’ second graders wrote a well-researched report about the NYC Subway system and designed and created a mosaic in the style of the mosaics we see in stations around the city. In addition, as part of their Grade 2 Writing Unit, each student planned, wrote, and illustrated a graphic novel.

Students walked around the classroom to check out their classmates’ work. But there were also special guests, who came to learn more about the projects, such as Head of Lower School Dr. Francis Yasharian P’36, Director of Family Engagement & Community Life Kimberly Davis Rivizzigno P’35, Assistant Head of Lower School Dr. Kenneth Hamilton, and Librarian Kristen Robb P’24, ’26.

Grade 2 Dives Into History of NYC

In social studies, Grade 2 learns about New York City from the 1880s to 1910, “a time of huge population and infrastructure growth,” Davies explained. They begin with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. “We learned about why there was a need for an East River crossing, who the engineers were, how they actually built it, and how it helped both Manhattan and Brooklyn grow as cities,” Davies said. “Then, we learned about the construction of the subway in New York City, which opened in 1904.” She added,  “We learned about what public transportation looked like in the late nineteenth century. We talked about the geology of the city and what workers would encounter as they dug below the city streets. We learned about two methods of construction, cut and cover and deep rock tunneling.”

Researching NYC Subway

In researching the construction of the subway, Grade 2B “took notes during each lesson from projected images on the Smart Board,” Davies explained. Together they looked at “primary sources, such as photographs, newspaper articles, and drawings that teachers had collected and gathered into Google Slides,” Davies said. “We read books and listened to history podcasts also such as the Bowery Boys. We put the slideshows and all links on the class website. During class, teachers encouraged students to come up to the front of the room and look at the projected images up close in order to point out what they notice and draw conclusions. Students love this kind of discussion since they feel like they’re making the discoveries themselves. The teachers try to act as facilitators rather than the person with all of the information.”

The students chose an image to write about and included facts from their notes, such as what kind of public transportation existed before the subway and the motivation to construct it.

The class also collaborated with the science teacher in an activity to understand “what’s underneath the asphalt in the New York City streets.” “We learned the layers of soil, sand, gravel, and rock, including Manhattan schist [bedrock on which the city is built],” Davies explained.

Erin R. ’33 wrote her report on the Construction of the New York City Subway: 1900-1904. Sirena A. ’33 added illustrations to the cover of her report, The Subway: New York 1900-1904.

Art Underground

Students also learned about the mosaics that are in the subway stations. The mosaic tile project was new this year. “With the support of the art department, we used real ceramic tiles, glue, grout, and waterproofing to make tiles,” Davies said.

Frieda K-B. ’33 created a mosaic featuring the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island for the Stillwell Ave. station. Millie R. made her mosaic in a butterfly design because “I love butterflies in spring,” and would place her mosaic in the Spring Street station. Lark D. ’33 explained that her mosaic was a sunset over water, which she would place at a subway station in Sunset Park. For her mosaic, Erin R. chose PPLS for Poly Prep Lower School, which she would place at a station near the school. Henry D. ’33 created an ice cream scoop mosaic for the Seventh Avenue station in Park Slope. A delicious looking mosaic featured a slice of pizza, which would fit in at so many stations in the city from Little Italy to Brooklyn.

Ben P.’s ’33 mosaic was just right for the Atlantic Avenue Barclays station with its “A” and “B” design. Sirena A. ’33 designed and created a rainbow mosaic that she would place at a station near her home. She explained, “I used yellow translucent tiles for the sun. The sky is blue.” It is easy to tell that Camden R. ’33 is a huge Knicks fan when you see his mosaic in the team colors of blue and orange. Of course, Camden would like to see his mosaic featured at the 34th Street station close to Madison Square Garden, the home of his favorite team.

New This Year: Creating Graphic Novels

“The graphic novel project was a new writing unit this year and it was so much fun!” Davies said. Students read graphic novels before planning their own. They sketched their main character, planned out the problem and solution using post-it notes to plot out their stories “in thumbnail formats.” After they chose their graphic novel pages [similar to comic book pages], they began “drawing, writing dialogue, and adding narration.” They considered different types of dialogue, lettering, and text size.  “They considered the illustrations for perspective in order to draw a character’s face or what the character is looking at.”

Frieda K-B wrote and illustrated her graphic novel, The Magical Forest and the Two Detectives. Millie R. is a young gymnast, so, of course, her graphic novel was, No Cheer, Yes Gymnastics. Lark D.’s graphic novel, Zapped, featured her hero on the cover with what looks like lightning bolts. 

World of Robots is the exciting graphic novel with chapters written and illustrated by Miller R. ’33. Included is a very helpful key to the characters. Erin R. ’33 displayed how the story arc for her graphic novel, The Treasure Hunt, was plotted from a “problem” to a “solution” and the action along the way. A vibrant rainbow was featured on the cover of Nina D’s ’33 graphic novel, Analia’s Big Excited Surprise. 

Grade 2 NYC history Erin

“What surprised us as teachers was the enthusiasm that students bring to both social studies and writing,” Davies said. “In social studies, students have their hands raised throughout the class period, wanting to share their thoughts and ask questions. When they have to write something, they do it happily, often writing more than expected. What surprised us in the graphic novel project was how patient students were in the planning phase. We thought they would be impatient and want to draw in the boxes immediately, but they patiently planned their entire stories on story arcs and on thumbnails. We were not surprised by their overall excitement in writing their own graphic novel since it’s such a popular genre!” 

Parents will have the opportunity to read the reports and graphic novels and touch the lovely mosaics at Lower School Open School Night on June 8.