Utilizing the six pillars of Character Counts!—Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship—PS 34 will integrate the National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools program’s framework to instill a positive learning environment for its students and create a culture of kindness while simultaneously teaching concepts of sustainability, interconnectedness, stewardship and making a difference in the world through a lens of environmental studies.
In October, aside from kicking off the Character Counts program for the 6th year, DSNY organics/food scraps collection began and PS 34 revamped their recycling protocol. Sam Silver from GrowNYC ran assemblies to talk about this new process. Teachers, students, custodians, School Food staff and even parents learned about recycling properly. This new initiative aligns with Character Counts’ pillars, Responsibility and Citizenship. “During after school, I help Ms. Wong monitor the recycling area during snack time in the cafeteria. I make sure that everyone knows what goes in which bin, including my teachers!” Auden, 3rd grade student.
By understanding why it is important, we create more meaning to their actions and this in turn makes for lasting culture change. In my Eco-Action Green Team, students learned about composting and discussed decomposition in nature. For homework, Ksawier, a 3rd grader, wrote a poem about how nature recycles:
Little trees have little leaves,
Every season, our trees change,
In the Spring, the plants are green,
Autumn changes everything,
Leaves turn from green to brown,
In the end, they all fall down,
But nature takes care and cleans it up,
Slippery slugs roam garden floors,
Worms, beetles and other bugs,
Chomp and chew, munch and crunch,
And all the leaves change to nutrients,
Our little trees now are bigger trees,
Everybody is happy and the world is better.
From October 19th to 23rd, PS 34 celebrated Character Counts Week where students focused on the Character Counts’ values and how it connects to the Environment, Equity, and Economy, the 3 E’s of sustainability. Many of the activities were conducted in conjunction with other GCEF grant recipients. TreesNY worked with the 3rd grade classes in taking care of PS34’s school grounds by transplanting some of the greenery in the front yard. “My son, Oliver came home from school all muddy and I absolutely loved it!” said Karen McInnes, 3rd grade parent. Together with Greening Greenpoint, 4th graders focused on tree stewardship in neighborhood tree beds. Allura, 4th grade student said, “In the end, we all held hands around the tree, and Ms. Rzerzicha read the Thanksgiving address. It was very nice.” In addition, gym teacher, Ms. Mascioli, conducted cooperative team-building games, which teach interdependence. The Green STEM teacher, Ms. Marshall, read the Lorax and then asked her students to write a sequel… what will the boy do with the last Tuffula tree seed? Ms. Hahn read “What If Everybody Did That,” to her 1st graders. What if everybody recycled their bottles and cans? Art teacher, Ms. Summa helped judge a poster contest where students were asked to create posters showing how they can use Character Counts’ values to be green. Finally, on Friday, October 23, the entire PS 34 community came out to celebrate the Wall of Character, the culmination event where Assemblyman, Joe Lentol showed his support and also shared a few words.
October was a huge month for PS 34, focusing on building character and connecting that to taking care of our Earth, but this is just the beginning. In the upcoming months, teachers, students and families will have opportunities learn, engage, and truly make a difference in our Greenpoint community. Look out for us!
Tina Wong is a Sustainability Coach for The National Wildlife Federation Greenpoint Eco-Schools Program.