Lyons Community School provides a broad, stimulating experience in the liberal arts, preparing students, grades 6 – 12, for college, healthy adulthood, and life-long learning.The logo for Lyons Community School consists of three intersecting curves. Each curve represents one of our core beliefs about a good education:
1. New Experiences and Ideas
Authentic learning comes when you open yourself up to new ideas and experiences, and consider them with a wondrous and critical lens. At Lyons we believe that you need to experience learning first hand, engage actively in thinking and take time to reflect. Younger students at Lyons, leave the building for the afternoon each week to travel to different parts of our city. This class, called Field Studies, is fundamental to our school. As they get older they pick electives, many of which continue this weekly travel, or internships. Students know these experiences are not simply field trips. They come equipped with their notebooks, reading books (for reading on the subway), a pen and an open mind. Our students become savvy travelers, not only gaining confidence and ease with our city’s complex transportation systems and layout, but within our various communities and sites with their differing expectations.
The notion of constant exposure to new ideas is fundamental within our school as well. Inquiry based learning is central to our schoool. Students are introduced to new authors, art forms and ways of thinking about and seeing the world. Each semester in each core class students engage in intensive projects that culminate in Roundtable projects and presentations. Twice a year students demonstrate their understanding and growth through Roundtable presentations where outside evaluators see what they have learned. We encourage them to take chances in class by asking questions, suggesting their own ideas, and trying something new that might scare them or seem unfamiliar. Intellectual courage is key to developing a strong intellect and it starts with taking chances academically.
2. Being Known
Lyons is a small community with about 80 students per grade. Our small size allows each student to be known well by teachers, classmates and out-of-the-classroom staff. Each student has an advisor who is the point person for the student at the school. Advisors get to know their advisees by working with them small groups throughout the week and help them reflect, do long and short term goal setting, and to select courses. The advisor is also the main contact person for the student’s family. Advisors contact families regularly by phone, text and email. The advisor also works closely with other teachers to communicate the advisee’s particular vulnerabilities and strengths.
This support and understanding of the individual, allows us to know students as both learners and people. When asked to reflect back on what they must appreciate about Lyons both students and families say, "you guys really knew me, and you accepted me and supported me even when I was really struggling. You believed in me."
As is in our name, we are a community school. While we know everyone as a unique individual, more importantly we know that what we can accomplish together far exceeds anything any one of us could accomplish alone. We believe learning is social and that through discussions, collaborative learning and projects that stem from student interests, we all benefit.
Through advisory, classes that encourage group work and collaboration, and our Restorative Justice work, students get practice working together, dealing with conflict and innumerous opportunities to strengthen the skills needed to work with other people. When alumni and families talk about what they gained from Lyons they always talk about their ability to work with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. "We are the peace makers wherever we go. We help people believe we can work together instead of tearing each other down.
Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education
Lyons Community School is a liberal arts school. We firmly believe that a liberal arts education is ideal for secondary school students even if they already know what career they are interested in pursuing. A liberal arts education means that instead of focusing studies in one or two fields students are exposed to a wide range of topics and ideas. The purpose of a liberal arts education is to learn how to think and how to learn. With those tools students can do whatever they wish to do with their lives. Regardless of a student’s interests, the better she gets at reading and understanding challenging texts, writing well and thinking clearly, the better prepared she will be for any goal she wishes to accomplish. Also, when studying the liberal arts, students are learning to see the larger picture and understand how ideas are connected.
NYS Performance Consortium School
In June of 2014 Lyons became a NYS Performance Consortium School. This means we now can use Performance Based Assessment Tasks (PBATs), instead of most Regents, to demonstrate graduation level proficiency in various subject areas. Students at Lyons participate in Roundtables twice yearly and do graduation level PBATs to demonstrate understanding and mastery.
Restorative Justice School
Lyons is part of a growing network of schools that believes in using Restorative methods across the school to help students grow and mature. Instead of purely punitive methods, Lyons employs programs like Peer Assists, Justice Panel, Peer Mediation, Peer Mentoring and Circles to help students develop independence and a sense of communal responsibility. We believe conversation and community help students develop strong decision making skills.
Lyons is a nationally recognized school for our work in Restorative Justice. We have visitors from across the country regularly visiting to learn from our experiences, are one of the NYC City Council five mentor RJ schools, and staff and students are regularly presenting at conferences and other schools.