The Greenpoint YMCA and the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education have developed an environmental summer program for New York City high school students focusing on the integration of STEM standards. Funding for the program is provided by ExxonMobil.
The program now called “SYSTEM” was initiated in 2010 to foster environmental literacy and stewardship by using the local environment as a context for learning. Place-based education is used as a theoretical framework for learning which connects people to the places where they live, work and learn. Students make connections between natural and human-made systems in order to understand the complexities of urban settings. Utilizing the Greenpoint community as a starting point, the program takes an interdisciplinary approach in integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with language arts, social studies and the arts. The program draws on the resources within the local community, thus students learn about the past as well as the present in order to create a sustainable vision of the future.
As students work on their projects, they are exposed to a wide range of professionals within Greenpoint and NYU, including environmental educators, university faculty, historians, geologists, soil scientists, engineers, landscape designers, community activists, artists, gardeners, urban planners, and policy makers. Highlights include a mini course in street tree care through Trees NY, and an overnight trip to Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New Yorkwhere they learn about sustainable design, alternative energy and forest ecology.
Lentol Garden, a one-acre community garden in Greenpoint serves as the focal point for service learning and environmental stewardship. In the summer of 2010, participants worked with landscape designers to removed invasive plants, and garbage, created a trail, and planted native plants in an effort to restore the garden as an open space for use by local school groups, summer camps, and members of the community. In 2011, students focused on engineering projects. They worked with NYU Poly Tech robotics engineers to develop soil moisture monitoring devices, and also installed a rain catchment system in the garden.
The program engages students in project-based learning and also introduces them to a variety of green careers as part of an intensive service learning experience. In year three the program will continue to expand and refine the curriculum to incorporate additional resources and projects.
SYSTEM in the Press:
Greenpoint Gazette:"Career Day for SYSTEM Students"
Greenpoint Gazette: "A System for Teens to Improve the Environment"
Greenpoint Gazette: "Greenpoint YMCA / ExxonMobil SYSTEM Returns for a Third Year"
Greenpoint Gazette: "SYSTEM Wraps Up its Third Year of Summer Learning"