Young Green New Yorkers

Environment

Marilyn Hoyt lists various instances of how children are leading the way to a greener future.

  • Pollution Patrol is a great example of children working to make green changes. Designers at the Parsons School of Design have developed probes that collect real-time data about carbon monoxide (CO) and particulates. These readings can be captured on smartphones allowing the youth to do their own experiments. Children then annotate this data and send it along to an interactive map. This work is showcased on social networking sites via blog posts. Recently the youth put up data on pollution from a bus, a truck and an idling car. This was distributed through dioramas of exhibition prototypes, a comic book, public service announcements and information posters via different media for different populations.
  • Solar One, an environmental education centre, is in the process of building the first energy-positive (produces more energy than it uses) building in New York. But before this building can get ready, Solar One is working with students in 10 New York City public schools with their Green Design Lab programme. These students work with school custodians and their teachers to survey energy use in their buildings. They work together to find right-now, real time changes. For instance, the students of PS 187 in Manhattan reduced their school's electric bill by more than 11%. To do this they learned about a broad range of energy topics, became responsible and made sure the computers and lights were shut off when not in use. These students communicate their work to the whole school via a "dashboard" bulletin board with changing data. They also report their findings and activities to other students and their families at assembly Carbon Counter programmes. Solar One is partnering with the New York City Department of Education and has set a goal of reducing energy use by 30% in its 1,500 schools.
  • The New York City Parks Department Urban Park Rangers lead a Natural Classroom Programme for students from kindergarten to class 8. Environmental topics include surveying and graphing sightings of birds using the city's parks as year-round habitat or seasonally with the great north-south hemispheric migrations. High school students are involved in a rigorous 10-week programme doing specific projects that improve the environment for plants and animals living in the city's parks.
  • New York City's beaches in the Queens Rockaways are adjacent to the National Jamaica Bay Bird Refuge. Urban Park Ranger programme students play an important role in the census surveys, shelter building and the ongoing monitoring of the Piping Plover, New York City's only endangered species.
  • Black Rock Forest Consortium, a 4,000-acre reserve about 90kms north of New York City, engages New York City students in research with scientists from Consortium member institutions like Columbia University. A key forest project seeks to understand the habitat requirements of the native Eastern Brook Trout. Introduction of non-native trout and stream degradation from deforestation have forced New York’s state fish closer and closer to extinction. Now, with the help of New York City students, annual surveys provide data on how brook trout at Black Rock Forest are doing and what stream conditions maximise their success. Cool, clear water turns out to be one key condition. So teams of high school and middle school students work with the Forest Manager on stream bank modification and restoration. This past summer, 12 competitively chosen high school students worked with staff to collect brook trout census data and college students worked with Consortium scientists surveying stream quality and identifying priority areas for brook trout conservation.


Marilyn Hoyt speaks around the United States of America for the Foundation Centre. She was the President and CEO of the New York Hall of Science, Co-author of the Estonian Zoo entry for the Encyclopaedia of World Zoos, presenter for the 1997 Moscow City As Zoo Conference. She has also written for the Association of Science-Technology Centres Dimensions magazine and recently authored chapters for 'Handbook for Small Science Centres' and 'After the Grant'.

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM
Black Rock Forest Consortium, Emily Cunningham, Development Director, Sibyl R Golden, Chairman, Bill Schuster, Executive Director; New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Bonnie McGuire, Urban Park Ranger; New York Hall of Science, Chris Lawrence, Director of Formal and Informal Learning and Teaching; Solar One, James Ryan, Grant Writer; Wave Hill, Debra Epstein, Education Director.