Established in 1987, when most public schools on the Upper East Side were neither well-regarded nor in high demand, PS 77 Lower Lab was modeled after two specialized private schools: Manhattan Country School and Bank Street Children’s School. Lower Lab remains true to its roots more than two decades later, offering innovative guidance and plenty of group work geared to the needs and desires of its gifted and talented (G&T) student population.
At Lower Lab, faculty and staff are committed, experienced and collaborative. They believe in working closely with parents to ensure that every child’s needs are met and that their years at Lower Lab are happy and enriched. The majority of their dedicated teachers have been a part of the school for many years, with several going through the ranks of student teacher or teacher assistant, prior to becoming a classroom teacher. Teachers are also required to have the license extension for gifted and talented education. Non-faculty staff members have also been with Lower Lab for many years. Their parent coordinator, school aides and intervention specialists spend every day making Lower Lab an awesome place for students.
Lower Lab facilitates participation in clubs and events, including Grades 4 and 5 Math Olympiads, the NYS Math League, the National Science Competition, and computer science (CML) coding. According to one parent, the Lower Lab science is “amazing.” Veteran science teacher Katerina Klaf, sporting a shock of Albert Einstein hair, meets all students two to three times a week in her tidy classroom with a scientifically labelled array of live pill bugs, earthworms and hornworms. “The larvae are gorgeous!” she said to us with sincere excitement. Fifth-graders have an updated timetable for classes. They receive instruction in math and science from one teacher and from another in English and social studies. Small group advice helps students balance the strength of their studies at the middle school level, and to juggle the demands of two teachers. As a group, math lessons are rooted in problem-solving practices.
Lower Lab shares a building with PS 198 that serves a student body that is more ethnically diverse. The schools have focused deliberately on creating friendly cooperation. Students from both schools represent a joint student council, the PTAs of the schools sponsor the joint fundraiser, and teachers of the 198 G&T Program and Lower Lab share practice by attending classrooms of each other. (PS 198 ‘s principal, Nancy Cabrero, is formerly a professor and assistant director of Lower Lab). The classrooms of the Lower Lab are split up into several floors but no section or lobby is solely reserved for school use.