Greenpoint is home to the oldest continually operating public school in all of New York City, P.S. 34. Unsurprisingly, this local public school, which was built in 1867 after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln, possesses a wealth of history to share with its students and neighbors.
P.S. 34 Oliver H. Perry Elementary School is named after Oliver Hazard Perry, an American naval officer who was nicknamed the “Hero of Lake Erie” for his defeat of the British in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated P.S. 34 a New York Historical Landmark almost four decades ago in 1983.
Not only is P.S. 34 full of rich history, but it’s the home of the first Polish-English Dual Language Program in the five boroughs. The public school uses a Balanced Language Model where students receive half of their instruction in English and the other half in Polish.
In honor of its unique language program, P.S. 34 hosted a Polish Cultural Bilingual Day Celebration on Thursday, October 27 in the Eckford Street schoolyard. P.S. 34’s Principal and fellow Greenpointer Alain Beugoms called the celebration “a family engagement event” and “the dual language community’s first getting-to-know-each-other experience this year.”
The Polish Cultural Bilingual Day Celebration, which was aligned with Polish Heritage Month, included songs and presentations celebrating bilingualism. During the celebration, students, dressed in traditional Polish apparel or Polish-related garb, stood on a stage in the schoolyard and sang songs in different Alanguages, including Polish, Spanish, and Hebrew. Many of the songs were versions of popular Disney tunes from movies like Moana. Explanations of the performances were translated in both English and Polish for the community.
During the celebration, students also presented their names and what being bilingual means to them as part of the school’s “Name Projects.” Students throughout the school engaged in a project about their family names with the goal of highlighting and celebrating the P.S. 34 community’s diversity, languages, and cultures. “Name projects were a way to get to know the families at the beginning of the year,” explained Principal Beugoms.
Kathy Kajosi, an involved parent and alum of P.S. 34, told Greenpointers that the school’s dual language program “really helps to keep the tradition going.” Kajosi continued, “helping my kids with their Polish has been a major win for us all since Greenpoint still has some traces of Polish left.”