Newtown Creek focused curriculum expands in schools
This school year, two Long Island City schools will teach urban ecology with a focus on the nearby Newtown Creek.
Last Thursday, the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy (HPPC) and Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) announced a partnership to bring the Newtown Creek Urban Ecology STEM Curriculum to Hunters Point Community Middle School and PS/IS 78.
Four teachers at each school from various grades were trained on the curriculum, and have implemented it into their school year.
Standing in front of the 2nd Street Boat Launch at Hunters Point South Park, Casey Chamberlain, program and development manager at HPPC, said that public access point to Newtown Creek, the only one in Queens, is what inspired him to bring the curriculum to Long Island City.
“This park and this creek hold so much potential for teaching our students about urban ecology,” he said, “and the impact that humans can have on our natural world.”
Willis Elkins, executive director of the Newtown Creek Alliance, added that access is important because it engages people and develops stewardship to the waterbody.
“Working with the local schools, we think it’s hugely important,” he said, “and an opportunity for the next generation so have a personal relationship with this water.”
According to Lisa Bloodgood, director of education and advocacy at NCA, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy was the group that “laid the groundwork” for the curriculum.
NCA took it, morphed it and incorporated the Newtown Creek to make it a “teaching tool.”
“We are developing the minds of our future problem-solvers, our creative thinkers,” she said. “They are the ones who will get us out of the mess that we’ve created here.”
The original curriculum, first funded by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), contained four units: flora and fauna, water quality, soil quality and watershed and sewershed.
With funding from TF Cornerstone and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and a partnership with HPPC, the new curriculum has added two new units: climate change adaptation, and the history and geography of Newtown Creek and its surroundings.
Over the next year, with funding from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, and a partnership with Greenpoint Innovations, the two organizations will design, install and document a new environmental mural in Long Island City.
The students from the two schools will be involved, and learn from, the process of making the mural as well.
Sarah Goodman, principal of Hunters Point Community Middle School, said the school has been focused on the local environment. They study water quality every year, and participate in gardening activities with HPPC.
She said the urban ecology curriculum will reach all of the school’s 450 students in grades six through eight.
“They’re going to embark on critical thinking projects throughout the year with this curriculum,” Goodman said. “The impact is going to be quite large.”