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. 

SYSTEM  (Summer Youth STEM) 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 focal 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 York where they learn about sustainable design, alternative energy, and  forest ecology.

Lentol Garden, a one-acre community garden in Greenpoint serves as the context 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 mechanical engineers to develop soil moisture monitoring devices, and also installed a rain catchment system in the garden. In 2012 students built and planted vertical planters in the garden and in 2013 a drip irrigation system was installed using a solar powered pump to transport water from the rain catchment system to the flower beds. More recently students experimented with hydroponics and installed a native plant 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. Funding for the program for the past six years has been provided by ExxonMobil.

A long-term research project is underway to study the impact of this program on student's attitudes toward the enviroment and career choice.   

SYSTEM in the Press

Greenpoint Gazette: "The Greenpoint Y Introduces It's Newest Environmentalists to the Community", August 19, 2015

Greenpoint Star: "Greenpoint Wraps Up 5th Summer Program", August 18, 2015

NY Daily News: "Careers Take Root" August 8, 2014

Audubon magazine: "Learning to Love Nature at New York City’s Field Station" September 13, 2013 (see page 3)

Greenpoint Gazette: "Neighborhood Teens Confront Greenpoint's Environmental Issue"  Aug 16, 2013

Greenpoint Gazette: "Innovations in Green Infrastructure Inspire Greenpoint YMCA ExxonMobil SYSTEM Teens to Create a Sustainable FutureAug 01, 2013

Greenpoint Gazette: "SYSTEM Wraps Up its Third Year of Summer Learning" Aug 22, 2012

Greenpoint Gazette:"Career Day for SYSTEM StudentsAug 09, 2012

Greenpoint Gazette: "Greenpoint YMCA / ExxonMobil SYSTEM Returns for a Third Year" Jul 26, 2012

Greenpoint Gazette: "A System for Teens to Improve the EnvironmentAug 25, 2011


 SYSTEM videos

SYSTEM 2015 Green Roof Design Workshop

SYSTEM 2011 Summer Program