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Friday, April 11, 2008

Tween Town

This is what I like to do with out of town tween girls in NYC. Here is the secret to being a great tour guide. Keep them fed at frequent intervals. Don't walk them like a regular New Yorkers; they will turn zombie on you. Jump in a cab FAST when you see it coming on. Keep the destinations varied; educational, silly, glamorous. It is hard not to make a tween trip all about the shopping, but if you sprinkle a little interesting and inexpensive shopping in between the museums, they may stay alert.
Upper East Side: If you are doing a museum (and you are taking your life in your hands to do two in a day) head further east and take a ride on the Roosevelt Island tram. Pack a deli sandwich to eat on Roosevelt Island, take a breath and look at Manhattan, stop in at Serendipity if there is no line (ha!) for a frozen hot chocolate, and top it off with a little shopping at Dylan's Candy Bar. Even though I am tired of it, Dylan's may just be the highlight of their trip.

Midtown: You could stop in at the Toys R Us to wait in line for the Ferris Wheel, but we like to ride the elevators in the Marriott Marquis for free (did I mention that they are glass elevators?). Get an "outside" elevator, one sort of in the center, ride all the way to the top floor and try for an uninterrupted trip to the ground floor. Repeat until you stop squealing. Then head across the street to the Edison Hotel restaurant for matzah ball soup, blintzes and egg creams. We also like to use the bathrooms at the Paramount or whatever fancy new boutique hotel has just been renovated. Undoubtedly, they have a Sephora at the mall at home, but you want to be glamorous when you go to Broadway. We go for makeovers before the show and put on the most fabulously outrageous peacock colored eyeshadow imaginable. It doesn't fly back home, but heh, you are having a madcap Manhattan weekend. The best lunch or dinner spot ever is the Burger Bar in the Parker Meridian in midtown. You go into this sleek, grand lobby, look for the small neon burger sign and enter another world; cardboard signs, grease stained paper bags of french fries and the occasional celebrity. The burgers aren't only great, they are the best bargain in town. You can't miss.

High tea is fun for tweens. Although I like to wear a big flowered hat, they usually don't allow it. It is great to stop for a fancy version at the Palace or some other institution, and contrast it with Tea and Sympathy in the village. There are some pretty good walking tours in the village as well. It is interesting for them to see a real speakeasy at Chumley's (even if it is only from the outside), the skinniest house, see the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (which they study about in school) and the bodies buried under Washington Square Park when it was considered way out of town. You have to go to The Forbes Museum on lower 5th Ave. It is free and it is the perfect tween collection of Faberge' Eggs and Toys, beautifully displayed (I think that it closes at around 4 so don't leave it to the end of the day).

I like Sundays downtown. Dim sum at some huge Chinatown dumpling palace will blow their minds. Shopping at Pearl River, and a scoop of red bean or green tea at the Ice Cream Factory is always a hit. Then a tour at the Tenement Museum and a pickle on the lower east side. As long as you are downtown, walk across The Bridge and have some cheese cake at Juniors. Sit at the counter for the most colorful waiters.

I don't like waiting in line for things; it wastes time and drains energy. For me the Staten Island Ferry is a great view of the Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building is open until midnight, so if you go early evening your wait isn't horrible (if you go at 11pm, it is even quieter, but there are lots of people kissing)

The best tour for out of town relatives that I ever heard was mentioned on WNYC. You get each visitor to write a country name on a slip of paper. You proceed to eat at a restaurant from each of those countries during their stay. You wake your guests at midnight, hop in a car and drive to Time Square to demonstrate that this is in fact, the city that never sleeps.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bard High School Early College II

I know an 8th grade student whose method of choosing a High School I admire. Since there are still seats at her High School of choice, Bard High School Early College II, I thought I would share a bit of what she expressed to me.

Louise is a good student, whose test scores could have gotten her into many selective schools in NYC. In fact, she found 11 schools that she very thoughtfully and deliberately placed on her list of possible 12. She felt Bard was a good fit the first time she walked in, but she chose Bard II for her first choice because she has come to love science at her Middle School, MS 447 The Math and Science Exploratory School. Bard II's new principal was a science teacher at Bard College and she felt the school would have more of a science slant considering their partnership with the National Academy of Sciences. She likes the idea of starting fresh and not having to fit a mold. She knew it would be challenging, and there is a lot of pride in being in the first graduating class in what is bound to be a strong school. She will have a long commute in freshman year to Elmhurst, Queens from Park Slope, Brooklyn. She knows what she is in for and in her sophomore year the school will move to the Frank Sinatra HS building in Long Island City.

The thing I think impressed me most was the pragmatic way that she made her choice. She knew that Bard II, as a new school, would be looking hard for students and the classes might be smaller. All the students would feel united in a school that was a new experience for everyone. She knew she had something to offer the school and she could really make a difference.

Her advice to students picking a school:
#1 look for classes that you like
#2 think about if you feel comfortable there
#3 how far do you have to go to school
#4 is the environment bright and exciting or dull

To talk to Bard High School Early College go to the supplemental HS fair held Monday April 7 and Tuesday April 8 from 5-8pm at Brandeis HS (W. 84rd between Amsterdam and Columbus)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

High School Choice

I hope that all you families of 8th graders had your dreams come true last week. If you didn't get a placement this is what you have to do.

Go to your guidance counselor and get a "supplemental application". You have until April 10 to make your choices. There will be two HS fairs for schools that still have spots on April 7th and 8th from 5-8pm. This fair will be held at Brandeis HS at W. 84rd between Amsterdam and Columbus. There are still some interesting schools on the list, including Bard II and nycischool. These schools will be making individual presentations at the fair so get there on time and make sure that you seek them out. Bring your students so they can have a say in the process.