Brunswick Center Focus

The Brunswick School

-Jennifer Belcher

Jean Piaget, educational psychologist, once said that, “The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.”

Never have I experienced this philosophy more than when I met with Erin Kahy and Amnah Aboukamar-Johnson, the two heads of the Brunswick Center School. 

Initially, I met with the two directors to learn more about the center and what it had to offer in terms of curriculum and instruction for their students, who range in age from infants to Kindergarten students. However, as I sat listening to them speak of the work of their teachers, I found myself engrossed in their educational philosophy and the ideals with which they are using to guide the Brunswick School.   

The Brunswick School, located in Jersey City, believes in a holistic approach to learning in which student-driven instruction facilitates the growth of young learners for future academic success. It was clear from speaking with both Aboukamar-Johnson and Kahy that the administration, faculty and staff value learning that is authentic, purposeful and engaging to all students.  

The Brunswick School offers students a bright and welcoming environment in which to learn.

According to the school’s website, “Educators use a diverse approach to educate our youth that encompasses logical/abstract thinking, creative outlets to fasten fundamental ideas, hands-on, student driven exploration and teacher-guided large group and small group instruction to provide a comprehensive curriculum for lifelong learners.  At The Brunswick School, we believe that each learner is unique and that each, individual, student has a different approach to learning.”

After meeting with both directors of the school, it was evident that the school’s philosophy and vision are in the hands of educational leaders who hold a core belief in these values.  Ms. Kahy, who came to the Brunswick School in 2014 when it was initially established, brings with her a background in and love for performing arts.  This passion helps her lead faculty and staff in creating a space where both teachers and students can utilize their creativity and imaginations. 

Erin Kahy

Amnah Aboukamar-Johnson has 22 years of experience in early childhood education.  She has been both a classroom teacher and educational leader.  Having spent time teaching in the same environment in which she now leads allows her to draw on her experiences and perspectives from her time inside of the classroom.

Amnah Aboukamar-Johnson

In addition to Aboukamar-Johnson and Kahy having an enriched understanding of multiple styles of learning and developmentally appropriate curriculum, they also have established a mutual trust in their expert teachers.  

“We have a strong teaching staff here at the Brunswick School and we try to provide them a space in which they can make the decisions that are best for the individual learners inside of their classrooms.  While we have a guiding set of end- of-year learning objectives for each student, we do not wish to box in our teachers by having them stick to one prescribed curriculum.  Our teachers are resourceful educators who have the ability to draw upon various methods in order to help students achieve the highest level of success through diverse learning experiences,” the two directors shared.  

It was hard not to feel motivated and inspired by the student-focused leadership style of both Kahy and Aboukamar-Johnson.  Their clear combination of knowledge of best teaching and learning practices coupled with their passion and love for the daily experience of childhood development set the tone for the wonderful learning and growing that is happening at the Brunswick School.

Ms. Kahy states that, “My philosophy on education has always been that nothing can be uniform when it comes to a child’s development and her approach and ability to understand new material. Every child learns in his own way and some children take longer than others, grasping concepts or aspects of concepts.”

The Brunswick School was a natural fit for Ms. Kahy as she saw her own visions of education mirrored in the school. 

“TBS is completely aligned with my own views of appropriate educational modeling as we provide a 100% individualized approach to all aspects of learning: cognitive, emotional, social, physical and language development are all the areas where we concentrate on a child’s unique abilities and hone in on interests to help that child blossom into whomever he or she is going to be—no predispositions are ever part of the process. If a child wants to be a scientist when they grow up, wonderful! If another child wants to be a plumber, equally wonderful! It’s all about reaching each child’s own, personal potentials and goals and making him or her the very best version of themselves.”

Erin Kahy came to the Brunswick School in 2014 when it was initially established.  Erin has been an educational director for over ten years and has a degree in Elementary Education and Creative writing.  Erin is also a mom to a beautiful baby girl who attends the Brunswick School. 

Amnah has been involved in Early Childhood for 22 years, and her educational background includes a degree in Early Childhood Development as well as being Preschool-3 certified by the State of NJ.  Outside of the Brunswick School, Amnah enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children.

The Brunswick School, a part of the Brunswick Center is located at 189 Brunswick St. in Jersey City, NJ.  For more information you can visit or call  201-478-8886.  The school regularly holds Open House events for prospective parents and students.  You can follow them on Instagram @thebrunswickschooljc for up to date information.      

Body, Soul, and Pole: A Challenge Worth Taking

-Jennifer Belcher

Body, Soul and Pole is located on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center in Jersey City.

That was not easy.  It was not easy at all.  Every video I had ever seen of someone doing pole fitness made it look graceful and elegant: spiraling women, fit and strong, twirling effortlessly around a pole. That’s what was supposed to happen, right? Not hardly.  I learned very quickly that pole fitness is hard. Instead of resembling the ease at which my instructor demonstrated each new step we would try out, spinning multiple times without demand, I approached my pole, took my grip, and did my best imitation of a flying squirrel hitting a tree face on.  Ouch.

Why had I been so eager to try this in the first place, anyway?  Basically, I’m all for workouts that are fun, artistic, and let me challenge myself in ways that don’t feel like, well, a workout.  Having danced my whole life, I figured it should ideally not come as too much of a challenge. In addition to something more creative and fun that didn’t involve massive amounts of sweat and dumbbells, I had heard nothing but rave reviews about what pole fitness could do for one’s physique.

When I found out a new studio was opening up on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center, I was excited and anxious to try it.  At first I worried about what people might think. Pole fitness can be a little controversial given its provocative and risque origins.  Some people I’ve met have strong opinions on the dance classes saying they are demeaning to women and support a culture of sleaze and degradation. However, women using a highly rigorous form of body control and strength to combine fitness and art in a unique way is, in my opinion, empowering.

After a few months I talked myself into trying it out.  Having done my research I knew that I was in for quite the strenuous exercise.  According to Shape.Com, pole classes are a combination of workouts that incorporate the use of your own body weight, strength training and flexibility in one.  A few intro lessons in, I can tell you that it is so much more than that. Each class requires a significant amount of coordination, body control and focus.

Two days after my first class, my body was as sore as if I had completed a double gym workout.  My arms were killing me, which was no surprise. I’ve always been someone who has significantly lacked upper body strength.  The results of one pole class alerted me to the fact that this may, indeed, be the kryptonite class to my scrawny, under-toned limbs.  I am not kidding you, there were a few points in the days that followed when I could not even lift my arms.  

It wasn’t the incredible upper arm workout that had me going back to another introduction class, however.  The dancer inside of me could not deal with the fact that I was not able to look like a beautiful spinning siren after day 1.  The learning curve necessary to achieve the few moves taught in the class was steep, and I was determined to get them quickly. Flapping and flailing against the pole was not going to be how I went down.  This was an entirely new and frustrating experience for me, someone who had always picked up on anything dance rather quickly.

Needless to say, even after the second class, I still looked more like an out of control animal than I did someone who should have been up there.  However, my climbing skills (which require a tremendous amount of upper body strength) were already improving and the coordination necessary to achieve a whirl around the pole was steadily increasing.

If you are interested in trying a pole fitness class, do not let it overwhelm you.  It is NOT easy and it is not something you are going to achieve overnight. Unlike many forms of fitness which have you achieving the basics rather quickly, Pole Fitness is going to ask of you patience, determination, and the willingness to be okay with looking like a complete jerk crashing into a metal pole.  The good news is the women (and men) inside that class will do nothing but support you, lift you up, help you achieve body and mind confidence and stand next to you doing weird and awkward things around their poles as well.

So put all your reservations aside, find your best pair of biker shorts (the more skin exposed the better your grip on the pole) and try it out.  It will definitely challenge you, but it will also help you carve out a lean physique, and more importantly a strong will and self-belief.

In addition to offering introduction and intermediate pole fitness classes, Body Pole and Soul offers lyra and silks classes.  I recommend trying it with a friend.  You can have fun laughing at, I mean with, each other.  The studio also offers parties for events such as bachelorettes, birthdays, divorce parties (yes-that is a thing!).

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