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Leaving Brooklyn: Fuhgeddaboudit!

Aug 3, 2015 11:00 AM | 2 comments

It has been an amazing five years here at the Brooklyn Collection. I will miss my job as Project Manager of Brooklyn Connections and I will certainly miss the students and teachers I have worked with. But most of all, I will miss all the friends I have made here at the Brooklyn Public Library.

2015 Brooklyn Connections Convocation

I have learned so much more from the Brooklyn Connections students and teachers than I could have ever taught them—and I doubt they even know it!  From our students I’ve learned to be patient (especially with our middle schoolers) and to look at photos and paintings differently—I see the beauty that can only be seen through the eyes of a child.  From our teachers I’ve learned teaching techniques, classroom management methods and overall how to be a better educator. 

I am so sad to leave the home I have made here but I will be a stone’s throw away – or rather, an expressway, a bridge, another expressway, and some side streets away—in Staten Island! 

Verrazano Bridge, 2010 (I won't miss driving over this every day in rush hour traffic!)

This month I start a new chapter in my life, as I will be the Manager of Education at the Staten Island Museum—yes, Staten Island has a museum (in fact, it has several).  The Staten Island Museum is the only remaining general interest museum in New York City. Founded in 1881, by environmental activists, the Museum has three main collections: Natural Sciences, Fine Arts, and History Archives & Library.  I’m excited to be part the team as the Museum transitions into the Snug Harbor Campus.  The building the Staten Island Museum will be housed in is the first federal landmark on Staten Island to be designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, which will include a geo-thermal heating system.

Sailor's Snug Harbor, 1871

In addition to managing education programs in Snug Harbor, I will also run the education programs at their homebase at 75 Stuyvesant Place, a five minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry.

I’m excited to work in Staten Island at this transitional time with the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets coming and the newly opened Flagship Brewery!  If you haven’t been to Staten Island, I suggest you make a visit. I’ll be waiting at the Museum!

Brooklyn Connections 2014-2015 Wrap-Up

Jun 23, 2015 10:10 AM | 0 comments

The 2014-2015 school year has proven to be yet another great year for Brooklyn Connections.  We're pleased to have served nearly 2,000 students in 76 classes from 33 schools in Queens, Manhattan and, of course, Brooklyn.

Throughout the year, the Brooklyn Connections staff continued to support students by teaching 21st century learning skills and aligning our skill-based lessons with the Common Core Standards. After students learned and understood the research skills, they completed a project that had a visual, oral and written component.  Students also visited the Brooklyn Collection at least once throughout the year.

Two Brooklyn Connections students. We're pleased to have Sydney (right) as our intern this summer!

Completed Projects
In July 2013, we were awarded a two-year grant for the creation of the David and Paula Weiner Social Movements Curriculum.  We researched and wrote an eight-module curriculum that focused on social movements in Brooklyn and New York City, ranging from child labor and labor unions to environmentalism and LGBT rights.  We piloted the modules in several classrooms and we’re looking forward to continuing to use the curriculum for years to come.  All eight modules are on our website.

We had the honor of working with the Department of Education this year on its new project, Teen Thursdays.  In collaboration with Brooklyn Public Library’s Youth and Family Services department, we hosted dozens of students in two of BPL’s branches -- Canarsie and Crown Heights -- where we taught research skills in an after-school setting.  Students researched filmaking in the 1920s and the Crown Heights Race Riots. You can see one of the completed projects here.

We’re continuing to add lesson plans, project packets and other resources to our website.  Check back soon for new material!

National History Day
National History Day (NHD) is a national competition for 6-12 grades focusing on American history.  We worked with three schools who entered the NHD competition at the Museum of the City of New York where Brendan and I were judges (note - we did not and were not allowed to judge our students’ projects).  While we didn’t have any winners this year, we are not defeated.  Our competitiveness is ever so heightened and we will see a winner next year!

NHD project about Walt Whitman: The Bard of Democracy

Celebration and Exhibition
This year we held two convocation ceremonies in the Central Library's Stevan Dweck Auditorium.  On May 8th we were honored to host two of our funders, the New York Life Foundation, which last year awarded us a two-year $400,000 grant, and Jon and Belle Weiner, who awarded us a two-year $100,000 grant to complete the David and Paula Weiner Social Movements Curriculum.  Our second convocation was held on May 22nd.  In total, we welcomed over 350 teachers, students, parents, and honored guests to the convocations.  Projects were put on display in the Dweck lobby and students presented their work on the Dweck stage. 

Students from St. Savior Catholic School presenting their Civil Rights projects at the convocation

This year’s exhibition “Our Brooklyn” showcases a sampling of our students’ work.  Research topics included neighborhood history, famous Brooklyn residents, landmarks, social movements, and more.  Students produced exhibit boards, models, plays, research papers, slideshows, movies, and scrapbooks.  The exhibition will be on display until September 5, 2015. 

Brooklyn Connections 2014-2015 exhibition

A few select student projects are also available on our website, including projects completed by students from Pratt Institute. 

Professional Development
This year we hosted seven teacher professional learning (PL) events.  Topics included immigration, LGBT, food, and the civil rights movement.  Over 180 teachers, paraprofessionals, coaches, and administrators attended our sessions. Next year we will once again host at least seven PL events, check back soon for our full calendar of events. In addition to our school year PL events, this summer -- along with BPL's Youth and Family Services department -- we will be offering teachers a two-week long professional learning seminar called "Teacher Lab."  This NYC DOE-approved, credit-bearing course will meet for 24 hours and carry two credits that can be applied toward a teachers' 30-and-above salary differential.

Attending and presenting at conferences continues to be crucial for our professional development and also informs the public and our colleagues about the Brooklyn Connections program.  We attended several conferences this year, including the National Council for History Education in St. Augustine where we informed our audience on how to conduct local history projects using archives and libraries. We also presented at the Museum of the City of New York’s Social Activism Conference and New York City Museum Educator Roundtable Annual Conference.

In the Media
In October, Brendan, our Education Coordinator, was featured on CUNY TV's Brian Lehrer Show where he spoke about one of our lesser-known collections, The Brooklyn Digest magazine, the Brooklyn Collection and Brooklyn Connections.


Finally, we’re pleased to debut our new Brooklyn Connections promotional video which was produced by Meerkat Media.

We're currently accepting partner school applications for the 2014-2015 school year. If you are or know a teacher, librarian or administrator in an elementary, middle or high school, please consider applying or forwarding the application. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @BKLYNconnect

Putting Out Fires Since 1865!

May 1, 2015 10:58 AM | 0 comments

  Early Fire Engines

Our Firemen, 1887

2015 marks 150 years of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) bravely serving New York City. I am proud to say my brother-in-law is a FDNY firefighter who started out as a volunteer firefighter. For years, Brian responded to fires whenever the loud siren was rung at the Oceanic Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 in Travis, Staten Island. As Staten Island's oldest volunteer fire house, Oceanic received its charter in 1881 and is today -- out of the ten volunteer fire houses in the city (here's a bit more about that) -- one of only two recognized and dispached by the FDNY. Both are located in Staten Island. 

Organized firefighting dates back to 1648, but it wasn't until 1731 when fire brigades were put into service and all able-bodied people were required to respond to alarms. Due to an ever-growing population, the volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York was established in 1737. The requirements: men needed to be "able, discreet and sober."

Our Firemen, 1887;

With the introduction of the steam engine, the need for men to pump water to extinguish fires were no longer needed.

Gradually volunteer fire houses were closed and replaced by paid companies.  Today, the FDNY has more than 11,400 Fire Officers and firefighters. You can read the complete history of the FDNY here.

As for Brooklyn, the first record of organized firefighting in the city was in 1772, when six men were recruited to fight a fire near the ferry landing on Fulton Street. In 1785, seven men were appointed at a town hall meeting to be the offical firefighters for Brooklyn. In 1788 it was announced that all appointed firefighters would be exempt from jury duty and militia service -- needless to say, this resulted in men busting down the doors to sign up.  1785 brought the first organized fire house in Brooklyn.

During the Civil War, the City of Brooklyn replaced cisterns with hydrants, providing a reliable source of water to fight fires.

On May 5, 1869, the act to "reorganize the Fire Department of the City of Brooklyn" was passed (the previous attempt in 1858 was defeated), which made way for the paid fire department. With the passage of the act, four fire commissioners were appointed and firemen's salaries were set at $800 a year. The cities of Brooklyn and Williamsburg transitioned their volunteer fire departments into paid companies by 1870, followed by New Lots in 1886; Flatbush, Gravesend and New Utrecht in 1894; and Flatlands in 1896. The Brooklyn Fire Department merged with New York's Fire Department with the 1898 consolidation of New York City.

"In 1823, an act was passed incorparting the Fire Department of the Villiage of Brooklyn."

As a side note, a few months ago when I was on a tour at Green-Wood Cemetery, I came across the grave of William Chin(n). I was intrigued by the inscription on the stone: "In memory of William J. Chin, Private of Engine Co. No. 20 Brooklyn Fire Department who was killed by being thrown from a supply wagon while in the discharge of his duty as a fireman on the morning of December 28, 1889."

Grave of William Chin, Green-Wood Cemetery

Civil War veteran Chin served as a driver for the Volunteer Fire Department. According to the Times, he was injured en route to the Brasher Oil-Cloth Works fire on 18th Street and 8th Avenue when he was "thrown from his seat by the shying of the horses at a blazing log and the wheels passed over his chest."  He experienced severe internal injuries and died shortly after on January 3, 1890.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 5, 1890

Emma Chin, his widow, sued the city for negligence, citing a defect in the street that led to her husband being thrown from his truck. The defense argued that the street was not in disrepair and that Chin was leaning over the dashboard reaching for a rein when he was jolted back as his truck hurried over to the fire. She sought $5,000 in damages in City Court but it was dismissed on January 21, 1891, after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict (it was 11-1 in favor of Chin). A life-sized sculpted marble fireman marks his grave.

To round out this blog (and lighten the mood) here are some pictures of firemen in parades:

Volunteer Firefighters at the 1930 Parade

These men aged 80 and 92, respectively, are adorable in their uniforms!

"These eye-filling young drum majorettes strutted their stuff in the volunteer fireman's parde yesterday." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 23, 1941

Check out those men checking out those women!


Thank you for serving and protecting us for 150 years!

A School for Girls and One for Boys

Feb 4, 2015 11:53 AM | 1 comment

It's doubtful that you've heard of James W. Naughton but very likely you have walked passed one of his magnificent buildings. Naughton, an Irish immigrant, moved to Brooklyn when he was eight years old. He became an architect after apprenticing in Milwaukee at the age of fifteen and upon his return to New York, he studied at the Cooper Union. In 1879 he became Superintendent of Buildings for Brooklyn's Board of Education and designed more than one hundred buildings, including Brooklyn's first high school.

Before Brooklyn had any high schools, it had grammar schools.  Central Grammar School, opened in 1878 (known later as Central School) was located on the corner of Court and Livingston Streets in Downtown Brooklyn. The coeducational school was organized for students who graduated grammar school and wanted to pursue higher education. The first floor had small stores while the upstairs housed fourteen classrooms. It didn't take long for the school to become overcrowded, and for years residents of Brooklyn urged for a better and larger public secondary education system.  In 1886 they got their wish when Girls High School was opened.

 Central Grammar School located on Nostrand Avenue between Halsy Street and Macon Street

Robinson's Atlas of the City of Brooklyn, 1886.

Located at 475 Nostrand Avenue, Girls High School is the oldest surviving high school building that was designed to be a secondary school in New York City. Designed by the aforementioned James W. Naughton, it was intended to be the new Central Secondary School for both boys and girls, but there were too many students! Officials decided that only girls would attend the school and promptly renamed the building Girls High school. The boys would have to wait a few years for a second school to be constructed.

Girls High School

Girls High School, 1909

In the early days of Girls High School, there were no clubs, games or dancing. In fact, two girls who were caught waltzing in the basement were nearly expelled. It wasn't until 1902 that the school introduced clubs for its students. In addition to the strict rule of "no fun", girls were not allowed to read fiction during school days, nor were they allowed to check out books from the library. It was also against the rules to talk after they entered the building, especially in the hallways and auditorium. They were, however, permitted to talk during recess and lunch. Needless to say, this is a stark contrast from schools of today.


Girls High School Courses, 1897

Boys High School, located at 832 Marcy Avenue, opened on November 1, 1891. The building, with its giant red walls and high towers, looks more like a castle than a school.

Boys High School, 1911

In the spring of 1896, a scandal rocked both Girls and Boys High Schools. On the corner of Nostrand Avenue, a group of girls from the high school were talking to some boys from Boys High School. Of course, we know at the turn of the century girls and boys could not talk freely on the street to one another without some gossip ensuing. Principal Calvin Patterson overheard the "improper conversations" between his pupils and boys. He was so upset about the interaction that he punished the entire school -- he locked all the doors, ordered the girls to eat their lunch on school grounds and allowed no one off the campus without written permission. Furthermore, all 1,500 girls were instructed to "never flirt with boys" in order to have a "more dignified future." After this incident, the Times wrote an article titled, "Brooklyn school girls angry: They were said to have been forbidden to flirt." Patterson explained to the Times that he locked the doors to protect the girls from speeding trollies and to prevent "sneak thieves from getting into the wardrobes."

The Scandal of 1896

"Where are you going, my pretty maid?"

"I go to the High School, sir," she said.

"May I go with you, my pretty maid?"

"It's against my Principal, sir," she said.

Boys High School had a school newspaper, The High School Recorder in which students wrote short stories, covered athletic news, held contests and reported general goings on about the school.  In 1940, the editors of the paper were lucky enough to meet with Walt Disney.  Below is the telegram confirming Disney's visit to New York to meet with students and the article written for the school paper.

Girls High School handed out its last 150 diplomas on June 25, 1964. The Board of Education merged the two schools in the fall of 1974 by admitting the first group of girls to Boys High School. A brand new Boys and Girls High School building opened in February 1976 located at 1700 Fulton Street. Today, the landmarked Boys High School is home to Brooklyn Academy High School and the landmarked Girls High School is an adult continuing education school. Famous alumni of both schools include Lena Horne, Lylyan Tashman, Florence Eldridge, Isaac Asimov, Norman Mailer, Alan King, and Shirley Chisolm.

This is one of dozens of commencement programs for Girls High School that we have at the Brooklyn Collection.  Dates range from 1890-1941.

Boys High School report card, 1960.

If you have any memorabilia about Girls, Boys, Boys and Girls High School or any other Brooklyn school, consider donating it to the Brooklyn Collection!  And don't forget, there are only two more weeks to check out our exhibition: The Education of Kings: A History of Brooklyn Schools, which closes on February 13th.


Brooklyn Connections Professional Developments

Nov 17, 2014 4:31 PM | 0 comments

We are pleased to announce the Brooklyn Connections 2014/ 2015 teacher professional development schedule. To register for any of the workshops, please email or visit our website.


Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson--a great topic for this year's NHD theme: Leadership and Legacy

What: Creating a National History Day Project with the Brooklyn Collection and the Museum of the City of New York

When: Monday, December 1, 2014 from 5pm-7pm

Who should attend: Teachers and parents who have students or children participating in National History Day or those who want to know more about NHD

Why: National History Day is a highly regarded history contest in which students choose a historical topic related to the annual theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research. After the research, students present their work in the form of a paper, website, exhibition, performance or documentary. 

At this session, participants will review the step-by-step process for creating a National History Day project, look at examples of projects in various categories, review evaluation criteria, and tour the Brooklyn Collection. Light refreshments will be served and all participants will receive a Brooklyn Connections National History Day guide to take home.


Beverly Leeds protesting Ebinger Bakery in 1961

What: Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement

When: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 from 9am-3pm

Who should attend: English and Social Studies Teachers, Administrators and Librarians

Why: Explore the Brooklyn Collection's original Civil Rights materials with expert historian Brian Purnell. Learn about the efforts of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) which included protests, community clean-ups, marches, and a sit-in at the Brooklyn Board of Education. This workshop will provide teachers with the content knowledge and materials needed to help students explore Brooklyn's role in the Civil Rights Movement. Teachers will have time to connect with the CORE collection and will sample lessons, including the new Social Movement Project Packet: Civil Rights Movement in Brooklyn, funded by the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant and written by historian and NYU professor, Daniel J. Walkowitz and Brooklyn Connections staff. Each participant will take home an extensive packet of resources that can be used in the classroom.


What: Teaching LGBT Topics in Schools

When: Monday, February 9, 2015, 9am-12pm

Who should attend: All teachers

Why: Participants will hear from experts and discuss "people-first" language and how to address prejudice in schools. Participants will also get a chance to review our newest David and Paula Weiner Social Movement module: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Movement. Participants will have an opportunity to connect with the Brooklyn Collection's materials as well as learn where to find other materials related to the topic. Finally, a guest panel of Brooklyn-based LGBT activists will recall experiences from the LGBT movement and talk more about constructive responses to prejudice.


What: A Bite of Brooklyn's History

When: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 9am-3pm

Who should attend: Teachers and librarians from all grades

Why: Explore the Brooklyn Collection's vast array of food-related primary source materials and learn the role food played in Brooklyn's history. From sugar refineries to hot dogs, historic photos to Chinese take-out menus, the workshop will offer a wealth of information and access to a meaty chuck of Brooklyn's past. Participants will be introduced to the holdings of the Brooklyn Collection followed by presentations from two food historians: historic gastronomist and author Sarah Lohman and pizza historian and educator Scott Weiner. Attendees will be provided with model lessons designed by our education staff. Each teacher will take home an extensive packet of resources that can be used in the classroom. 

If you cannot attend the workshops but would like a copy of the resources or if you would like to schedule a teacher workshop in your school, please contact us at