Making Children Better Stewards of the Planet

“1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, I believe it’s not too late!  Together we can change the world.”  These were the words sung by PS41 Senior Songbirds at the Opening Ceremony on September 21, 2012 for New York PS41 Greenroof Environmental Literacy Laboratory (GELL).  GELL is a 9,000 square-foot roof atop the Greenwich Village Elementary School.  After playing an important role in developing curriculum for the school’s Urban Eco-Club enrichment class, I was excited to join Emerging Professional members Mariah Howard Porath, Chad Ondrusek, and Rollie Jones at the opening ceremony.

Last spring, Urban Green Council’s Emerging Professionals partnered with Vicki Sando (PS41 science teacher and Founder of GELL) and her colleagues to help create a special curriculum aimed at teaching students about environmental building practices. EP volunteers also collaborated on the delivery of these lessons over the course of the eight-week program.  One activity had the students experimenting with the water retention and heat absorption benefits of a green roof through the use of a hand-made model of the school.  Later in the lesson series, students interacted with a game that allowed them to create dream [green] homes in various climates around the world.  The EP volunteers hope that this connection will support a lasting partnership between New York City’s educational providers and Urban Green Council’s emerging green building experts.

Also at the ceremony were the policy makers, donors, sponsors, and project management team.  Jonathan F.P. Rose of Jonathan Rose Companies praised both Sando and Kelly Shannon (PS41 Principal) for their dedication and perseverance that lasted throughout the six years it took to bring the project from inception to completion.  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Tom Duane emphasized that the laborious planning, fundraising, evaluation and construction process will serve as a prototype for other schools and communities interested in installing something similar.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was thrilled that the green roof would serve as a supplemental classroom, giving young students a place to be excited by science.  The outdoor garden will allow children to be taught through demonstration, supplementing the verbal learning that more typically dominates a classroom and transforming their educational experience.  Lessons in ecology, chemistry, biology, mathematics, nutrition, and fine arts will become more integrated with every student’s curriculum through the GELL Project.

It was clear that those in attendance at the opening ceremony believe that GELL will help pave the way for future projects with similar environmental and educational benefits.  Also important though, is to recognize the potential in this project to make our children and future generations better stewards of our planet.

About the authors

Jessica Cooper