Each journey begins with a single step. This journey begins on the corner of Water and Bridge Streets in Brooklyn.
The Art of Words Community School (or TAWCS) wants to provide a different outlet for education that children might not get elsewhere, especially for children of color.
Founder and Director Dr. Lisa Scott, a former teacher who’s worked in public school with marginalized children, wants to make learning fun and teach kids how to think critically and think for themselves as well. Scott’s school teaches art and literature with its content directed toward Social Justice and Community-based learning. The combination of integrating art and literature is missing in today’s public schools where the students are majority Black and Latinx. TAWCS looks to fill that gap. Scott wants to grab those students and parents of kids from marginalized communities who are disillusioned about education and have given up on school as a concept.
“These children of color just, you know, I could just imagine that you feel you don’t feel valued, because you’re not meeting the objectives and you’re not meeting those milestones that have been set before you and so you don’t feel capable of doing that,” said Scott, while sitting in the lobby of the school. “So like what kind of future are we setting up for this vision? I said I just wanted to create a school that had a different narrative of their children.”
Scott and company have put their tuition on a sliding scale based on income, which makes it affordable to all. While this policy relies on higher income people to buy into the process as well, the goal is to make kids not feel ashamed of not knowing something. It is how learning begins.
“He’s afraid. He’s afraid of revealing himself, and he’s afraid of being vulnerable I think,” said Scott when speaking of one student. “And so I think that him being uncomfortable is necessary. A little bit. But I think for him it’s uncomfortable because he can’t let it go.” She hopes to pull that creativity out of the child soon. She wants him to accept that he’s not alone.
“You’re awkward. We’re all awkward!” said Scott.
TAWCS is currently enrolling K-3, 6th grade and 9th grade.
Gary Li, a kindergarten and first grade teacher who’s spent time in public and charter schools, said that everyone learns differently, which makes a teacher’s style more important.
“We’re not focusing so strongly on a curriculum that’s completely to the test,” said Li. “We’re focused on a personalized individual curriculum for each student. And because of that, we can really focus on their interests and cater to them, and then build on those strengths and work building connections.”
TAWCS uses the CLAP Method of educating kids. CLAP stands for Community, Literacy, Art and Projects. The school wants to combine the best of Waldorf-inspired curriculum with STEM.
“When they enter this space, they know that it’s a loving environment and their interests will be addressed and they come here for the therapeutic escape they need in order to continue to build on.”
TAWCS sits on the corner of a gentrified DUMBO neighborhood, but don’t mistake this private school for something catering to the new residents. This is a private institution for everyone and its barebones operation shows it. To be of the people, many entities must start with a few followers. TAWCS has more than a few and is looking to grow beyond its current location. Scott needs new people to buy into the concept. She believes they will. Especially when they see how she gets through to students.
“You know the different modalities that we use in the classroom, it’s like I want you to smell it, taste it, experience it, see if you get it,” Scott said. “Because subject matter competency is more important to me than anything else. I want you to be inspired by something that doesn’t necessarily mean something that I would be interested in, but I want you to know something about anything.”