The National Wildlife Federation Certifies 500th Eco-School in NYC

Thousands of students gain “Green STEM” skills while greening their schools and enhancing their connection to nature

NEW YORK, NY – The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has now certified over 500 schools in New York City through the internationally acclaimed Eco-Schools program which provides a seven-step framework to help educators integrate sustainability principles throughout their schools and curriculum. This accomplishment comes in the wake of reaching 10,000 certified Eco-Schools and Schoolyard Wildlife Habitats nationwide, a benchmark that was reached last fall.

As the largest and most diverse school district in the country, with 180 languages spoken among its 1.1 million students and their families, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has played a crucial role in supporting Green STEM professional development offerings for teachers that translate into learning opportunities for city students. Green STEM infuses environmental concepts into traditional science, technology, engineering, and math with an emphasis on real-world applications to solve environmental problems. The NYCDOE’s partnership with NWF Eco-Schools USA has allowed thousands of NYC students to learn outdoors, engage in wildlife gardening and habitat restoration, energy and water conservation and waste reduction projects. Research confirms that this type of hands-on, environment-based education enhances academic achievement and fosters a greater sense of environmental stewardship.

“Reaching 500 certified NWF Eco-Schools in New York City is a huge achievement,” Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said today. “This increased interest in Green STEM education in schools is more important now than ever, due to current attacks on science and climate change education in public schools,” he said.

NWF is working with partners like the National Science Teachers Association, filmmakers, and policy makers to counter misinformation campaigns designed to confuse teachers about the science of climate change, and also provides expertise and recommendations for environmental education curriculum in schools.  NYC Eco-Schools is partnering with Brooklyn College, two curriculum designers, and six NYCDOE coastal Brooklyn schools on a climate literacy program for middle and high school students. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) program will launch in October 2017 as an after school pilot and is designed to give students a voice in resiliency planning.

“We’re committed to teaching our students about the importance of sustainability, said Meredith McDermott, Director of Sustainability for the New York City Department of Education. “Programs like NWF’s Eco-Schools are helping to develop a well-educated and empowered generation of student leaders who can think critically and help solve the important challenges of our time, including climate change.”

Of the 507 Eco-Schools now certified in NYC, 11 of them have achieved status as Green Flag Eco-Schools, the program’s top honor. Student-led initiatives have led to impressive results:

Using tools from NWF’s Cool School Challenge, the Green Team at PS 69 in Queens, guided by Counselor Pallavi Shastri, cut the school’s carbon emissions by 150,000-lbs and kept 10,000-lbs of waste from ending up in a landfill. Students also collected over 5,000 pounds of gently used glue sticks, binders, folders, arts and craft supplies and books and donated them to homeless shelters, daycares, and needy students in the school and community.
Guided by science teacher Barbara Taragan and Sustainability Coordinator Johanna Esteras, students at Brooklyn New School raise crops in the school garden which they harvest and serve. The school is a NYC Compost demonstration site. Students explore green spaces in and around the school community, including parks, gardens, and urban farms. Second graders learn about the importance of water as they engineer ways to collect it, including designing water filtration, irrigation, and rainwater catchment systems. Fifth graders study weather and climate change and the benefits of alternative energy sources. They demonstrate what they learn at the school’s annual sustainability “science fair,” Ecorama. The school has a blog by the same name that highlights students’ green activities.

Guided by science teacher Pete Mulroy, students at the NYC iSchool in Manhattan used the Eco-Schools Biodiversity and Schoolyard Habitats Pathways to study the importance of biodiversity as well as species extinction and its causes. After taking a survey of the school grounds and identifying problem areas, students created a native plant garden and wildlife habitat outside the school that included raised bed planters and nesting houses for birds that they built themselves. They also improved the health of the area street trees by loosening compacted soil, planting flowers in, and adding mulch to, the tree pits.
Four Eco-Schools in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (PS 31, PS 34, PS 110 and MS 126) will receive their Green Flags on May 15th at a community celebration.  The Green Flag is the pinnacle of achievement for the program. This will bring the total number of Green Flags in NYC to 15 schools. In their first year of Eco-Schools programming, and with funding from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, these four schools reduced the volume of their waste by 80%, diverting close to 135,000 pounds of food waste and recyclable materials from landfill, saved thousands of gallons of water, created wildlife gardens, outdoor classrooms, and hydroponic labs, participated in field trips to rooftop farms, recycling facilities, and sewage treatment plants, and built underwater robots as part of a Green STEM After School program. 
The Eco-Schools program was started in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) with support by the European Commission and it has evolved to a global program. National Wildlife Federation is the U.S. host and operator of the program. Besides the U.S., there are 63 countries around the world participating. Eco-Schools green their school buildings, their grounds and their curriculum. Schools can register for free on the Eco-Schools USA website.

The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is the largest school district in the United States with over 1,800 schools, 1,300 school buildings, 137,500 employees, and 1.1 million students. The Office of Sustainability seeks to transform the DOE into a more sustainable and efficient public entity regarding facility operation and student environmental education.


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