As Head of the Lower School, Ms. Shari D. Cameron proudly leads BASIS Independent Brooklyn’s expansion to a brand new Pre-K through grade 2 campus in Downtown Brooklyn. Starting in fall, the new 62,000 square foot Lower School campus will serve our youngest scholars. When the doors open at City Point (413 Albee Square West), Ms. Cameron will be right there with her hand-picked team of faculty and staff warmly greeting each student and family.
For the past five years, Ms. Cameron thrived leading teams at BASIS Independent Brooklyn across Academic Programs, Admissions, and Student Affairs before assuming the role of Associate Head of School for the Red Hook campus in 2019. With roots firmly in the classroom, Ms. Cameron started her career as an award-winning middle school teacher cultivating in her students a love for history and English. She then rounded out her experience in the classroom by nurturing student curiosity teaching science in addition to English to elementary students. Ms. Cameron was tapped early for a department chair position, and she found she could make a difference in administration. She graduated from Virginia Union University on a full academic scholarship and earned an MBA with a focus on leadership management.
“Cultivating love and excitement for learning in the foundational years of a child’s educational experience is key for sustained passion and success as students advance in their educational journeys,” shared Ms. Cameron when talking about her vision for the Lower School at BASIS Independent Brooklyn.
Head of School Cameron enjoys meeting with families about her plans for the Lower School and what makes the BASIS Independent programs stand apart. We sat down with her recently to talk about her excitement about leading BASIS Independent Brooklyn’s Lower School, and below are key points from the conversation.
“Our spiraling curriculum is by far what really separates us from other programs. We are constantly building upon skills and helping students build their confidence in their learning. Students are presented with a skill and then dig a little deeper every year.”
Building on Best Practices
“We will proudly carry over the globally-benchmarked curriculum, with which we have all fallen in love, to our Lower School campus, along with our two teacher model of LET-SET working together and collaborating. Having our own space specially-designed for our youngest learners will bring that collaboration to even deeper depths. Having dedicated rooms, such as art rooms, movement rooms, music classrooms where students can now move to between classes, rather than just teachers pushing into a classroom is wonderful.”
Normalizing Failure – Even in Early Years
“Normalizing failure is a huge part of who we are, even in the early years. We are actively teaching that failure is part of the process and that there is a process to failure; everything we do is intentional. How do you learn to learn? Everyone fails at one point in time, but what makes a difference is what steps you take after that failure. Can you learn from it?”
“Our curriculum is intentional in giving students the tools they need to sort through the process of failing. This comes through courses like Engineering, taught in the youngest grades. You create your blueprint, try to execute it, and ask yourself why didn’t that work. That is a crucial step that they can later apply that thinking to every area of their lives.”
Intentionally Building Breaks into the School Day
“The Lower School program is intentionally designed to have multiple, short bursts of recesses. They have three recesses a day, which is great for students. Then when the class blocks are long we have wiggle breaks. Class blocks in early Primary grades are designed with Math and Science together and English and History together, so there is a natural break point to get students up and moving, and ready for what is coming next. It is fun for the students.
“During election day, I went into a classroom, and for their wiggle break they were listening to a song about how democracy works. They were wiggling but also learning about terms in the song; on top of that, they are loving it. Teachers are encouraged to get students up and moving throughout the day.”
“We are the BASIS Independent Brooklyn Bear Cubs, and still attached to BASIS Independent Brooklyn, but I think it is really important for everyone who is involved–teachers, students, parents, the entire staff–to know who we are and what we stand for. I want the students to love coming through the door each day. When they walk into the lobby, I want them to feel comfortable and know this is a place where they can be themselves and learn to give back as well.”
“I want students to gain confidence and love learning, so when they leave the Lower School campus after second grade and come back over to Red Hook for third grade they know who they are as students and have developed a desire to give back to the community.”
When BASIS Independent Brooklyn’s Lower School Campus at 413 Albee Square West opens this fall, Ms. Cameron will welcome many new students, including her daughter. That perspective as both school leader and parent has enhanced her sense of purpose. “While working in admissions and then doing academic observations at BASIS Independent Brooklyn,” shared Ms. Cameron, “I was always able to go into the classroom and appreciate seeing the curriculum in action. Watching the evolution this school year with my daughter in several months is amazing, and it reminds me of why I do what I do each day.”
Check out renderings of the new BASIS Independent Brooklyn Lower School campus in this blog post.
This post originally appeared on the BASIS Independent Brooklyn Eureka! blog.