At PS 110, The Monitor School, students are getting an early lesson about becoming stewards for the environmental needs of the neighborhood.
About two-dozen students from the school, teachers and parent volunteers gathered at Lentol Garden Tuesday morning for a sneak peek at the AquaLab program. A collaboration between the school, the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) and NYU’s Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education, the program could serve more than neighborhood 1,500 students from PS 31 and 34.
“We’re trying to create a sense of community and environmental stewardship where the children can really feel invested in their neighborhood,” said Anna Cano Amato, school’s Principal. “This has all come together through the efforts of our parents, and I hope the children will learn the importance of being invested in one’s neighborhood.”
AquaLab’s implementation, however, depends on funding, which the school applied for through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF). PS 110’s Large Grant proposal seeks $250,000, and the school hopes to receive the community’s support during a public voting process.
If successfully funded, the AquaLab will be situated in the basement of the school, and will comprise of an aquarium, a science lab, and a resource lounge. Its curriculum will be based on the NCA and the Wallerstein Collaborative’s existing programs, and will enable students to learn about aquatic species, water quality, and salinity testing. In addition, students will learn about their local waterways by gaining access to local watershed infrastructure and bioremediation sites.
The idea for the AquaLab program came out of a conversation among parents hoping to install an aquarium at the school. More than just an observational tool, parents wanted a program that allowed students to actively engage with their environment. When GCEF funding became a possibility, the school researched and suggested several different programs to parents, including the AquaLab proposal, which received the majority of parents’ support.
At present, the initiative is being spearheaded by Klaus Schoenwiese, a parent to a second-grader at the school, who views it as a form of environmental education for the kids, but also as a program to benefit the neighborhood.
“We wanted our kids to learn about the real environmental benefits and hazards around them in this neighborhood,” said Schoenwiese. “And we wanted to present it to them in a tangible way – to create a solid environmental program with tangible benefits.”
At Tuesday’s program, students were divided into three groups – one studied trees at Lentol Garden, another planted native plants in the garden, and the third, took a nature walk, learning about water management and the importance of maintaining gardens.
The school expects to learn whether it will move on to the GCEF voting round early next week. If AquaLab advances through the pre-approval phase, it will go to a community vote on November 20, in which community members will choose the projects they most desire in the neighborhood. The overall weight of the vote in determining which proposals will be funded has not yet been announced.
GCEF Voting: Thursday Nov. 20, 12-2:30 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m., Polish & Slavic Center, 177 Kent Avenue, and Saturday Nov 22, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., “Warsaw” Polish National Home, 261 Driggs Avenue.