During Mardi Gras, Bricolage opened its social hall for Bricolage Gras, where families and faculty gathered to enjoy an Uptown parade. The day opened kindergarten parent Anna Palmer's eyes to what makes Bricolage so special.
"As we were watching the parade and the schools go by with their marching bands, they were almost always either all-white or all-black. I thought, 'If our school had a marching band, it wouldn't look like that.' To me, that made me really excited for our kids," Anna Palmer says. "That's what sets Bricolage apart for us. It's very intentionally diverse and that's unique."
Choosing a school for Eli, her oldest son, and navigating the OneApp system was overwhelming, Anna says. During the school shopping process, Anna and Jon Palmer heard about Bricolage through word of mouth and a few friends. Anna attended a school tour and open house, as she did for several schools. "When I came home from the Bricolage open house, I told my husband who wasn’t able to go with me, ‘We should really consider Bricolage.’ By the time OneApp was sending out letters and announcing student placement, we had seen even more schools and felt more settled on Bricolage being the place we wanted to be."
Drawn to integrity, innovation and empathy
Among other things, Anna says she and her husband were attracted to Bricolage's core values of integrity, innovation and empathy. "We really felt like ‘that’s us’ and identified with those values. For us, we felt they were pretty core things, so if our kid gets through elementary or middle school and has integrity and empathy for others and if he's innovative—that’s going to be a rock star human being."
Anna describes Eli as the kind of kid who prefers creating contraptions with bungee cords to playing pretend or with action figures. "I knew going in he would really like the innovation class, but I feel like he's enjoyed it even more," she says. "He’s come home from school and done some of things like create chain reactions and ramps. I can tell it’s been developed in him even more, that desire to create things and figure things out."
Innovative thinking spills over into other areas, too. Eli recently told Anna about the steps involved in 'publishing a piece' of writing. His last step, she explains, is to go back, revise and add to it. "I think those are the skills that are going to serve him well in a lot of areas in life," Anna says. "This idea that you continue to work on something. It’s not one and done. It’s a process. You’re not just looking at a blueprint and executing a, b, c and d—you’re developing a plan, following through, adjusting and revising the plan."
Pleased with positivity and individual attention
Anna describes the atmosphere at Bricolage as positive and more 'natural' than other schools she's experienced. "The teachers and everyone else address the kids as friends. Everybody's a friend." Such friendliness fosters determination and success, like Eli's achievements in reading. "Based on the reports and the conversations with his teacher, we’re really excited to see that Eli’s progressing even past where he’s supposed to be grade-level wise," Anna says."They're set up in a such a way that he can continue to make progress in those areas where he's strong. They’re grouping students, even pulling from separate classrooms, into the same reading group so the ones who are making progress aren’t slowing down."
The Palmers are updated about Eli’s schoolwork through progress reports and trimester reports. "They tell you what the standards are and where your child falls within those standards. They also do a narrative to tell me exactly what Eli's level is and what he can continue to work on." And when Anna has a question, she says she has good access to his teacher. "At the beginning of the year, she called and introduced herself," Anna says. "If I have a question or concern, I shoot her a text. She is always super responsive."
Anna says she's become a de facto Bricolage ambassador. "Our experience has just been so good," she says. "I want people to know about the school. As a parent, it's awesome to know that our son can be in this setting where there’s a ton of diversity—racially, ethnically, socioeconomically—and he’s going to get valuable experiences with people who are different than us. At the same time, I feel like he's definitely challenged and encouraged to keep pushing forward."
Is Bricolage responsive to parents?
Josh [Densen, the CEO and school leader] does a kind of informal coffee with parents. He sets aside about an hour to meet and say ‘How are things going with your kid?’ In the latest newsletter, Josh said he’s gotten feedback from parents at a recent coffee wanting more outside play time and that they were working to adjust the schedule. That's one of the things I like about the administration. They definitely have a philosophy and a plan, but they’re also very flexible. They acknowledge it isn’t an exact science. They see what works and make adjustments. That makes me feel very comfortable. I prefer that much more than going to school that’s had the exact same schedule for years and nothing’s changed. Bricolage says, ‘Hey, we’re trying something new. We’re going to be flexible about it.’
What convinced you to join a school that was totally new?
The appealing part of being at the beginning of something is ‘Man, they’re starting from the ground up. They’ve got fantastic ideas.' We feel like they’re doing the right things for the right reasons and we want to be a part of it. It’s exciting. We feel the benefits outweighed the risks, which are really mitigated risks considering the administration in place and their previous history and work within the school system. I feel they [the administration] have really developed ideas that weren’t necessarily just theoretical in nature. They've been in different school systems in different areas and based on their experiences, they know exactly the type of school they're trying to develop.
What advice would you give to prospective parents?
If you feel like Bricolage would be a good fit for your kid—knowing your kid and understanding what the school is about—don’t be nervous or hesitant because it’s new or because you don’t know everything about it. I think that there’s enough evidence and enough success there that it’s something that’s worth jumping on board with if you think the school would be a good fit for your kid.