Kindergartners congregate on PS 41’s Greenroof Environmental Learning Laboratory in Manhatten. Photo by Carla Brown.
We all need an oasis. Standing on New York City Eco-School PS41’s new green roof, I found a truly inspiring one.  Seeing the whole sky, feeling the late summer breeze, smelling fresh herbs, and hearing the happy exclamations of PS41’s elementary students brought a smile to my face. Being there made me want to share this treasure with others.  This is the amazing, green New York City that I know and love, brought to us by a dream, dedication and innovation.

Me in my crate playground quite a few years ago
I’m a city kid at  heart.

I grew up in downtown Philadelphia, where sidewalks and concrete abound.  I was a lucky kid too – I went to a school that took us out to a retired farm once a week and set us loose to explore after a hands on science lesson.  It was amazing, but it was just once a week, we had to leave the city, and most kids I knew didn’t have that opportunity.  That experience inspired me to work to ensure that all kids have the chance to fall in love with nature right in their own schools and communities. Stepping out onto the roof at PS41 affirmed my commitment to this work.

Already PS41’s Greenroof Environmental Literacy Laboratory, lush with native plants, serves as a haven for migrating birds (check out this gorgeous Northern Parula that found its way there for a rest while migrating South for the winter just days after the roof was completed!) and a calm and beautiful oasis of hands on, experiential environmental learning.  The 804 students who attend the school are already using the site to enhance their science, math, literacy, and art knowledge and skills.

A Northern Parula spotted on the green roof of PS 41. Photo courtesy Vicki Sando.
At a time when kids spend an average of 7 hours each day connected to electronic media getting outside isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. Watching bronze Eco-School PS 41 Principal Kelly Shannon and Teacher Vicki Sando inspire their students with this incredible new outdoor classroom inspires me too, as do the many other schools across New York City are going green.

Rather than paving the way for the future, they are greening the way!

All kids deserve such great teachers, school leaders, and such great opportunities.  Right now, your school can register to become an eco-school to create a better future for your students and celebrate the great work that is underway. Already in New York City 44 schools have signed up.  What is your school doing to green the way for your students?

P.S. Stay tuned for stories of some of the inspiring leaders, like Vicki Sando in the pic below, who made this dream a reality!

Vicki Sando, a teacher at PS 41, reads from The Curious Gardener on the schools green roof.