The Green School, as the name implies, is a progressive high school where the focus is on sustainability. Although sustainability is often associated with the environment and the sciences, the school teaches this ideal in a more holistic sense. “[It’s] not just about the natural environment, but about understanding our role in society” says Michelle Fufaro, the Site Director of the school. Fufaro is the liaison between the school’s partner organization Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment (BCUE) and the educators and staff at the school. Fufaro ensures that the 4-fold platform – sustainable self, sustainable relationships, sustainable community and sustainable society – is effectively communicated through the curriculum. BCUE has been “educating individuals about the built and natural environments of New York City” since its founding in 1978, according to the organization’s website.
In 2005, BCUE wanted to develop a progressive school that would be an extension of its mission of sustainability in the community. “We wanted the school to be a leader in the green movement in the city and active in not just the Brooklyn community, but in the New York City community,” says Fufaro. BCUE, in conjunction with the New Visions for Public Schools program, finalized the plans and the school opened for the 2006 – 2007 school year.
The Green School is housed in the I.S. 49 William Gaynor Middle School building and shares the space with the Multicultural School and Alliance Community, which are both in their first year. The Green School currently has 9th and 10th grade classes and will develop 11th and 12th grades in the coming year.
The school is not a science or environmental school, such as the New York Harbor School that bases its studies on the harbors of the city, but the structure and courses of the Green School do follow a science model of discovery and real-life application. The 9th grade Living Science class led by teacher Melissa Dowd has worked on projects such as Trout in the Classroom, where students have raised fry and will release them later in the year into planted ‘bottle ecosystems’ that are self-sustaining classroom gardens. The major project for the 9th grade class is the Newton Creek water monitoring program, where the students regularly sample the Creek’s water and compare it to New York City tap water which comes from the Catskills watershed. Looking into the future, by the time these students are juniors and seniors, the school hopes to move to primarily field-based classes and internships and is developing plans to have a green roof on their school.
The 10th graders went on a field trip to the new BCUE LEED-certified building, where the students were able to see the different components that went into making a green building and helped BCUE to complete the certification. “It’s awesome,” said 10th grader Ryan who was on the trip “they only heat areas of the building one room at a time, as needed, and use motion sensor lights, so they aren’t on when not needed.” When asked if he practiced all of these green ideas at home, he responded with “Not as much as I would like to.”
The school does not have an Earth Day celebration planned since the ideas of sustainability are prevalent year round. The school puts on Green Weeks through out the year, where each grade chooses a week and topic to be presented and study during that week. A group of students will be manning the recycling stations at this week’s Go Green! Greenpoint event in McCarren Park.