Third graders in downtown Brooklyn decided to tackle deforestation, an international crisis taking place far away from their urban streets. After conducting several weeks of research about the causes and consequences of clearing forests, this class of 8 and 9 year-olds decided to organize an awareness-raising campaign about the devastating impact of deforestation, and share strategies for how their community can help slow its rate.
The students completed multiple projects of varying intensity. First, for Arbor Day, they created and distributed flyers with tips for how to protect trees as well as an “advertisement” for their upcoming Public Service Announcement (PSA). While passing out the flyers, the students answered questions from classmates and their parents and encouraged the community to get involved in their campaign.
Next, they produced a PSA based on the research they had collected and analyzed. Viewers are informed of the importance of rain forests, the causes of deforestation, and its dangerous impact. The PSA concludes with tips for how people living in any community can help reduce the demand for trees and advocate for more responsible clearing of forests.
At the end of the project, the class broke into smaller groups and visited each classroom in their school to provide oral presentations of what they had learned.
Concerned about the negative impact on children’s health as well as the environment, second graders in Fort Green, Brooklyn chose to help prevent car pollution in their neighborhood. During the Research phase, they collected data by surveying adults in their community to find out how many regularly used cars. They also did extensive research about the extent and impact of car pollution and were surprised to learn that idling cars release as much pollution as moving cars. Although NYC had passed tough anti-idling laws (no more than one minute in front of a school for example), they also discovered that the police do not always enforce these laws. As they looked towards solutions, they decided to both encourage their community to reduce their car use and encourage better enforcement of laws designed to prevent pollution. They asked adults in their community to take a pledge to use public transportation – or, even better, walk or bike- at least once a week and also wrote powerful letters to the captain of their local precinct asking them to do a better job enforcing the anti-idling regulations.
Fifth graders decided to tackle an increasingly urgent community problem: the impact of extreme weather events on the most vulnerable New Yorkers. During the Research Phase, these young advocates learned how climate change amplifies extreme weather, causing natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy to occur more frequently, as well as how the City responds, and the resulting disproportionate impact on New Yorkers living without stable homes. In an effort to raise awareness of both the cataclysmic effects of climate-induced natural disasters and the resources available to protect New Yorkers, the students teamed up with LinkNYC to launch their “Prevent.Prepare. Provide” campaign on twelve kiosks located throughout NYC. Their powerful campaign, which combines student artwork with data and concrete solutions, can be viewed here.
Fourth graders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn decided to improve their school’s recycling program. During the Research Phase, they “mapped” the school building to determine whether there were sufficient bins located in every room and surveyed teachers to collect additional information about existing school practices. Both activities revealed troubling information: many classrooms did not have recycling bins, while many teachers (41%) said they did not recycle in their classrooms and even more (over 50%) did not believe that the recycling was being properly sorted. After meeting with advocates from GrowNYC to learn more about possible solutions, the students created a research-based advocacy presentation for their school administration, which included concrete suggestions such as bringing recycling bins to every room in the school and teaching both teachers and students about the importance of and impact of proper sorting.
“GREENING” THE SCHOOL
Second graders in Fort Green, Brooklyn organized a “Green Our School” campaign. They began by mapping the school building to identify environmental problems caused by either their aging facility or by members of the school community. They also met with environmental advocates to find out best practices for creating a more sustainable school environment. Based on their research, students made the following recommendations to the school administration:
- Take advantage of natural light on sunny days and leave the lights off
- Have 3 recycling/trash bins in every room: green for paper and cardboard, blue for plastic, and brown for trash
- Students and teachers should use both sides of paper before recycling it
- New paper used should be made from recycled paper
In the cafeteria:
- Remove the second electronic water fountain
- Students taking water should have their own reusable bottle. But if they don’t have one they should take only one paper cup per day.
- Assign students to be cafeteria monitors to make sure kids are recycling properly, taking only one cup for water, saving food they don’t eat, and not taking a school lunch if they bring lunch from home.
- Provide an organic school lunch.
Outside the school:
- Plant a garden
- Hang signs asking children not to climb on trees
- Protect grassy areas
- Install solar panels on the roof
Students also sent an e-mail to parents with tips for how to pack a waste-free lunch, and advised the school to create a permanent “Green Team” made up of students and school staff.