RiSC Students: Climate Resilience Ambassadors in Coney Island

RiSC Students Showcase Climate Change, Justice, and Resilient Infrastructure Projects at Coney Island Community Open House

Over the past decade, the need to protect our nation’s coastlines from sea level rise, erosion, and coastal storms has become one of the most critical and immediate challenges we face. Coney Island, Brooklyn is one coastal community that is seeing more extreme rainfall and sunny day flooding. The peninsula could be underwater by the end of the century.

Students volunteering

Sadly, the K-12 education sector is lagging in preparing youth to face these challenges. U.S. students on average receive just two hours of classroom instruction about climate change per school year and climate resilience and preparedness is not in the curriculum at all. That’s where the National Wildlife Federation’s Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) comes in – to fill that knowledge gap by educating middle and high school students in New York City about climate change, climate impacts, climate justice, and resilience solutions. 

During the course of the RiSC program, students learn about climate science, tides, and sea-level rise predictions. They use NOAA’s sea-level rise viewer to learn about future flooding, and compare maps of the Coney Island shoreline from 1609 to the present to understand how the coastline has changed over time. They also distribute a coastal vulnerability assessment to learn about the community’s climate readiness and practice public speaking to interview local residents, learn about their lived experiences and turn those interviews into podcasts. Each RiSC lesson also includes a listening exchange – an opportunity for students to pair up and talk about their feelings, including their climate anxiety.  

On June 10th 2022, students participating in the RiSC program gathered in Coney Island’s Kaiser Park to share their learning and projects with friends, community partners, funders, and local residents. These are just some examples of their inspirational work.

“Postcards from the Future”

Students envisioned Coney Island in 2080, after the climate crisis had been solved.

At Your Own RiSC

student designed board game

Students at IS 303, the Herbert S. Eisenberg school, created a colorful “At Your Own RiSC” board game, with a rule book and community-specific questions that advanced players through the game and eventually to the end – a climate resilient Coney Island.

Infrastructure Solutions for Storm Surge and Sea Level Rise

student science project

Students at IS 288, the Shirley Tanyhill school, poured buckets of water into tanks to check the integrity of their resilient infrastructure models.

The Realities of Redlining

students man booth

RiSC teams from the High School for Climate Justice in Harlem described redlining policies that increased residents’ exposure to climate risks and impacts and left them with fewer resources to mitigate those risks and impacts or recover from them.

Understanding Climate Impacts 

students interviewed local residents about their experiences with extreme weather

Students from John Dewey High School brought large-scale maps showing changes in the Coney Island shoreline over time. Some also interviewed local residents about their experiences with extreme weather.

History of RiSC

Since 2020, RiSC has partnered with the Coney Island Beautification Project, local residents, and teachers from eight public middle and high schools to provide students with hands-on climate resilience education and shoreline restoration opportunities. Every student who participates in the RiSC program gets outdoors several times throughout the school year to participate in interactive field trips. These include Adopt-a-Shoreline guided resilience walks, and planting American beach grass to stabilize the dunes along the shoreline to protect nearby homes from flooding. 

Additional partners include the NYC Department of Education, American Littoral Society, Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, NYC Parks, New York Sea Grant, Office of Emergency Management and NWF affiliate, New Jersey Audubon, which is adapting the RiSC program in Cape May County, a flood prone coastal area.  

RiSC is offering a free Summer Professional Learning Institute for teachers in Coney Island on August 30-31, 2022. More information is available here.

For more information about RiSC, visit www.riscnyc.org and on Instagram @riscnyc1

Photos by Teri Brennan