School ‘Green Teams’ win environmental grants

Climate change, farmer’s markets, composting among winning projects

BUSHWICH — Enterprising students who have spearheaded projects aimed at saving the planet were rewarded for their efforts by the Citizens Committee for New York City, which awarded grants of up to $1,000 each to the youngsters’ schools.

Fifty-four public schools across the city, including 18 in Brooklyn, received grants. Each of the winning schools has a “Green Team,” a club for environmentally savvy students.

The winning projects dealt with reducing waste, addressing climate change and creating more sustainable school communities.

Cynthia Olsen-Dinkins, a science teacher at Edward B. Shallow Intermediate School in Bensonhurst, said the grant her school received will allow the Green Team members to go all-in on a massive recycling effort. Shallow I.S. has signed up to be one of the first schools in New York City to be a Zero Waste Pledge School, meaning that the school will make a serious effort to reduce waste.

Three bins (one for glass, metal and plastics, another for paper and cardboard and the third for regular trash) will be placed in all classrooms. Once the bins are in place and the proper signage has been posted with each bin, the Green Team members will go about educating their peers and the teachers on the proper disposal of waste.

“We’re changing culture. We’re changing habits,” Olsen-Dinkisn told the Home Reporter.

Education is the key, according to Olsen-Dinkins. “Most New Yorkers do not know where our trash goes,” she said.

The students are enthusiastic, she said. “Kids want to make a difference,” she added.

Sustainability was the theme of the project created by students at J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler in Bushwick. The 25-member Green Team will use the grant money to purchase 300 aluminum water bottles to distribute to fellow students as a way of encouraging them to cut back on single-use plastic water bottles that clog up waterways, according to teacher Carly Edelman, the Green Team advisor.

“It’s an incentive program to encourage people to reuse items instead of throwing them away,” Edelman told the Home Reporter.

The bottles will feature a logo created by eighth graders Lila Vaivao and Brianna Rodriguez. Another eighth grader, Myrna Cruz, came up with a clever slogan for the logo, “When you refuse to reuse, it’s our earth you abuse.”

The students have also created an environmental game that they will invite the school’s sixth graders to play. “They will be visiting every sixth grade classroom with the game,” Edelman said.

Another school that impressed the judges was the International High School at Prospect Heights.

Photo courtesy of Carly Edelman Students at J.H.S. 383
Philippa Schuyler came up with this design for a logo to put on sustainable water bottles.

“For many of our students, things like recycling and thinking about the impact of human waste is new. Through this grant, we hope to create future leaders who understand how to make grassroots change. I am excited to be starting this journey with the students and I can’t wait to see where it takes us,” teacher Margot Dorn said.

The various projects that earned grants included organics collections in cafeterias, composting in school gardens, plantings to reduce air pollution and school-based community farmer’s markets, according to the Citizens Committee for New York City, a non-profit organization that works to promote community engagement in city neighborhoods.

The grant program is supported by the Department of Sanitation and Allied World Assurance Company.

“Citizens Committee is incredibly proud to support students in over 50 schools around the city as they work to create greener, more sustainable communities. The young people of New York are taking an active role in safeguarding our environment, and I am so impressed with the ideas and programs proposed by the students,” said Lori Lichtman, executive director of Citizens Committee for New York City.

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said she was impressed by the ingenuity of the students.

“Young people and public schools are two of our best partners in creating a sustainable New York,” Garcia said. “Students have some of the most creative recycling and sustainability ideas, and we are proud to support their work and commitment in reaching our city’s zero waste goals.”

The Citizens Committee announced a new round of Green Team grants for the current 2019-2020 school year. Applications are currently being accepted. The winning schools will be announced in the spring.

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The Brooklyn schools whose Green Teams have won grants in the current award cycle are Brooklyn Studio Secondary School, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, I.S. 318 Eugenio Maria de Hostos, International High School at Prospect Heights, Edward B. Shallow I.S., J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler, P.S. 141 at P.S. 54, P.S. 177, P.S. 186, P.S. 197, P.S. 230, P.S. 231, P.S. 261, P.S. 399, P.S. 811, P.S. 396, Unity Preparatory Charter School of Brooklyn and Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn.

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