A Great Year for NYC Eco-Schools!

from Wildlife Promise

NYC Eco-School MS442 in Brooklyn, with its green roof urban farm and 4,200 square feet of solar panels was the host of NYC Eco-Schools' first Sustainability Coordinator gathering, February 25, 2013. Photo: NWF

NYC Eco-School MS442 in Brooklyn, with its green roof urban farm and 4,200 square feet of solar panels was the host of NYC Eco-Schools’ first Sustainability Coordinator gathering, February 25, 2013. Photo: NWF

It’s been a remarkable first year for NYC Eco-Schools. Aside from being the largest and most diverse public school system in the U.S. – New York City is also the urban area with the greatest number of registered Eco-Schools.  The program has grown from 8 to 139 schools in less than one year, thanks in part to interest from NYC Department of Education “Sustainability Coordinators.”  These are the teachers, administrators, and sometimes parents,  appointed by principals to help implement sustainability initiatives – like recycling and energy conservation – in schools.

NYC Eco-Schools Hosts Sustainability Coordinator Gatherings and Workshops

Science teacher Nathaniel Wight leads a tour of Bronx Design and Construction Academy's green roof at the third Sustainability Coordinator gathering, April 30, 2013.

Science teacher Nathaniel Wight leads a tour of Bronx Design and Construction Academy’s green roof at the third Sustainability Coordinator gathering, April 30, 2013. Photo: NWF

Sustainability Coordinators on PS41's green roof, June 10, 2013. Photo: Tara J. Eisenberg

Early on, NYC Eco-Schools understood that there was a desire, among Sustainability Coordinators, for information and support, to help them carry out their ambitious goals.  So from February to June 2012, NYC Eco-Schools organized a series of five borough-wide social gatherings in partnership with the DOE Sustainability Initiative.  These gatherings brought Sustainability Coordinators together to connect, share stories and best practices, as well as be inspired by model green initiatives.

NYC Eco-School MS442 in Brooklyn hosted the first gathering in February.  Principal Deanna Sinito and Sustainability Coordinator Corrine Contrino took two dozen guests on tours of the school’s 2,200 square foot green roof urban farm and 4,200 square foot solar panel installations.  They shared their expertise about the projects including assessing feasibility, securing funding, overseeing installation, maintenance, and curriculum integration.

Sustainability Coordinators gather at Pioneer Academy in Queens, March 18, 2013. Photo: NWF

Sustainability Coordinators gather at Pioneer Academy in Queens, March 18, 2013. Photo: NWF

Equally inspiring tours followed at Pioneer Academy in Queens, Bronx Design and Construction Academy, PS57 in Staten Island, and PS41 in Manhattan. More than 100 Sustainability Coordinators attended these events, enjoying catered appetizers donated by award-winning Chef Michael Anthony and his restaurant Gramercy Tavern, with drinks and compostables donated by Whole Foods.

Teachers at NYC Eco-Schools' Gardening for Wildlife workshop at PS6, June 5, 2013. Photo: Tara J. Eisenberg.

Teachers at NYC Eco-Schools’ Gardening for Wildlife workshop at PS6, June 5, 2013. Photo: Tara J. Eisenberg.

NYC Eco-School PS6 – an NWF Certified Schoolyard Habitat – hosted two NYC Eco-Schools events in 2013: a gardening for wildlife workshop led by Eliza Russell, NWF’s Director of Education Programs, and a green roof tour and fundraising workshop with our crowd-resourcing partner ioby.  The response to both events was tremendous and everyone was impressed by PS6’s 4,000 square foot roof garden, greenhouse/Eco Center and turtle pond.

Ioby Offers Fundraising Coaching to NYC Eco-Schools

In addition to a workshop and webinars, in 2012/13, ioby provided their unique digital platform to all NYC Eco-Schools projects through a dedicated NYC Eco-Schools page, so schools can raise funds and recruit the volunteers they need. This Fall, ioby will be offering a 10-week ”Back to School Fundraising Coaching” program to 15 NYC Eco-Schools – a new pilot model that could be replicated nationally.

 PS57 Gets First Eco-Schools Green Flag in New York City

PS57 in Staten Island won NYC's first Green Flag award in March 2013. Photo: NWF

PS57 in Staten Island was awarded NYC’s first Green Flag, March 19, 2013. Photo: NWF

During the 2012-2013 school year, 30 NYC Eco-Schools qualified for Bronze awards through the program, five schools qualified for Silver awards, and one NYC school – PS57 in Staten Island -received Eco-Schools USA’s top honor, the Green Flag award. PS57 was also the only NYC school to receive the federal Green Ribbon Schools award.  In 2012, 25% of all Green Ribbon Schools were registered Eco-Schools. In 2013, 36% of all Golden Apple Award winners were NYC Eco-Schools! Winners receive cash prizes, certificates, and recognition from the City for their efforts to recycle, reduce waste and beautify their communities.

NYC Eco-Schoools Recycle, Compost and and Reduce Waste

PS87 participated in Eco-Schools' Litter Less campaign funded by the Wrigley Foundation. Green parents launched a school-wide composting and waste reduction campaign in 2012-13.

PS87 participated in Eco-Schools’ Litter Less campaign funded by the Wrigley Foundation. Green parents launched a school-wide composting and waste reduction campaign in 2012-13. Photo: Abigail Gampel

Thanks to the Wrigley Foundation, NYC Eco-Schools was able to dispense $8,500 in grants to 17 NYC Eco-Schools to address Eco-Schools USA’s Consumption and Waste Pathway.  With funds and direct support, schools were able to purchase recycling bins, conduct waste audits, launch composting and recycling programs and beautify their communities.

NYC Eco-Schools Save Energy and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Thanks to the Kettering Foundation, NYC Eco-Schools was able to dispense $3,500 in grants to 7 NYC Eco-Schools in May and June 2013 to implement the Cool School Challenge – a resource conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction program.  When it began the Challenge in May, John Dewey High School in Coney Island was still running on a generator since Super Storm Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. Collectively, the 12 classrooms participating saved 795 pounds of CO2 each week. During the Challenge, fifth graders at PS146 in Brooklyn reduced their classroom CO2 emissions by about 230 pounds. Sustainability Coordinator Johanna Esteras says the Challenge has had lasting results for the students and the school:

Johanna Esteras, PS 146's Sustainability Coordinator. Photo: NWF

Johanna Esteras, PS 146′s Sustainability Coordinator. Photo: NWF

“[A]fter the Challenge, it wasn’t over for them. The behavior changes they learned stuck with them; they’re still turning off lights. Also, the kids decided to use the $500 grant to help buy a solar panel to put on the roof of the Eco-Casita – our school’s outdoor classroom.”

Schools can learn more about the Cool School Challenge by registering for a Back to School Cool School Challenge webinar on October 9th.

Inspiring Schools

In 2012-13 I met so many wonderful teachers, sustainability coordinators and parents at NYC Eco-Schools who are passionate about preserving our environment. All are making a real impact in terms of igniting students’ interest in sustainability and education more generally.  There are too many to feature individually, but here are some highlights:

Food and Finance High School's Philson Warner in the school's basement farm. Photo: NWF

Food and Finance High School’s Philson Warner in the school’s basement farm. Photo: NWF

Professor Philson Warner teaches students in his state-of-the-art, energy-efficient aqualculture and hydroponic farm in the basement of the Food and Finance High School in Hell’s Kitchen where food is a “major.” The farm’s fish and produce is used in the school’s cafeteria. There are plans for a student-run café and a rooftop greenhouse.

Will Nyman and Students

Bronx Guild High School’s Bill Lynam and his students. Photo: Tara J. Eisenberg

Bronx Guild High School’s science teacher Bill Lynam and his students reclaimed two acres of abandoned DOE land across from the school and turned it into a biodiverse orchard with 142 trees and a “wild zone” that has attracted skunks, oppossums and raccoons.

At PS 166, Kindergarten teachers developed an original “Three Rs” curriculum to teach all 125 children about waste, recycling and composting. Children played waste-sorting games to prepare for the City’s new rigid plastics recycling law.  An after school Gardening Club, run by parents, implemented the Eco-Schools School Grounds Pathway and had students build and paint their own birdhouses to attract wildlife in the school garden.

Students at PS 166 built and painted birdhouses to attract wildlife in their garden. Photo: NWF

Students at PS 166 built and painted birdhouses to attract wildlife in their school garden. Photo: NWF

The 2013-14 School Year Ahead

I hope you’ll send me your inspiring stories and photos so I can feature them in 2013-14! I look forward to seeing more schools engage with the Eco-Schools program, use their personal dashboard pages to collect important metrics, and take our “Green Flag Challenge” (more to come).  We will continue to host Sustainability Coordinator gatherings and workshops, and have plans for a Green STEM Teacher Leadership Corps - for teachers who are incorporating hands-on environment and science-based education in their classrooms. If you’re interested in joining the Corps, or are interested in ioby’s “Back to School Fundraising Coaching” program, email me at fanoe@nwf.org. I want to hear from you!  See you soon!