Graduation Day had a festive air. Students dressed up, brought in food and sweets, with many parents in attendance for final presentations. When it came time for the big event, the room was packed, the excitement palpable in the air.
Several students---Ava, October, Justin, Henry, Ezra, Santos, Charlese, Miguel, Annabella, and Isabela---chose to redesign the rooftop garden, working in three separate groups. The results were all different but equally inspired.
Other presentations ran the gamut from Jeremiah’s DJ performance to Shadab’s animated short about healthy soil to Noel's one-man show to Mariela and Peter sculpting Play-Doh figures of fellow classmates, UDSP teachers Monica and Josh (including his dreadlocks), as well as a compost bin. (Mariela and Peter got extra credit for also doing a fabulous collage commemorating the UDSP.)
The hard work and creativity of UDSP students wasn't lost on those in attendance. Parents, friends, teachers, and TRCS administrators enthusiastically responded to the different mediums and methods used for permaculture design or simply artistic expression.
UDSP students are now officially eco-citizens as they move forward with their lives in school and beyond.
It’s hard to believe the Urban Design & Sustainability Program is over so fast. So much ground was covered in such a short period of time. Students and teachers alike were enriched by a unique opportunity to bond and expand their awareness of the world in an urban context.
For our final UDSP post, we'd like to share some more images of students during our six-week summer program.
Here's a few extra samples of their artwork, too. UDSP students know how to design, build, and draw in equal measure.
Attention, parents: All 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade UDSP students, as graduates of the summer program, are automatically eligible to attend our 3rd to 5th Grade after-school Permaculture Club at Renaissance Charter School. It starts Monday, September 19th. Please call Peggy Heeney for more information at (718) 803-0060 (ext. 111) or email her at email@example.com.
Special thanks goes to Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya, the Laura B. Vogler Foundation, and the Department of Youth and Community Development (COMPASS Explore Program). Their generous funding made the Urban Design & Sustainability Program possible. Beyond Organic Design would also like to thank Rebekah Oakes, who was instrumental in making the UDSP a reality. Thanks as well to Peggy Heeney for your assistance throughout the program.
UDSP students, we will miss you!
Justin Remus is the Communications Director of Beyond Organic Design.
It’s a wrap! The Urban Design & Sustainability Program came to a close on August 10th and it was an unqualified success.
For our final week, greenroof and permaculture designer Dwaine Lee dropped by and shared with students what he does as a green professional.
Dwaine was part of the building team for the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, one of the two largest in the world. Students visited Brooklyn Grange for Week 5.
Green roofs have many benefits to the building and our urban ecology. They conserve energy by keeping the buildings cooler in the summer, warm in the winter, and absorb rainwater. Students listened attentively and asked Dwaine some great questions about his unique livelihood.
Our second UDSP cooking class is proof that you can never get too much of a good thing.
This time, guest teacher Anandi Premlall, a founder of Sustainable Queens, showed the kids how to make fruit kebabs, pizza on English muffins, and cookies. Students are now certified gardeners as well as apprentice chefs.
The class was so fun Peggy Heeney decided to pop by as students honed their culinary skills then sampled their own cuisine.
You might remember what an amazing job UDSP students did painting their two murals in Week 4.
We hung up both on Renaissance’s rooftop garden, in addition to their birdhouses. Seeing is believing, so we invite parents to see these amazing murals in person. You already know it but we’ll say it again: UDSP students have talent!
UDSP students created some beautiful handmade signs for for our Tree Pit Project in front of Renaissance Charter School, which will be finished this fall. They also assembled some mini-birdhouses made of Popsicle sticks.
The students continued making compost and maintaining the rooftop garden like the pros they are. They watered their seeded plants and vegetables, which are growing fast. These include beans, sunflowers, arugula, and jalapeños They cleaned up all the container beds and tidied up the garden for the fall.
Brian made a bug hotel for the rooftop garden to encourage the beneficial bugs, which was his final presentation for Graduation Day. Ninety-eight percent of bugs help to keep nature’s balance.
Speaking of final presentations, the UDSP crew worked diligently to plan and execute their projects leading up to the big event. We gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, and they blew us away.
But don't just take our word for it. Check out our post about Graduation Day and see what exactly they came up with. Plus, there's pix of our celebration, including the yummy food and visiting parents.
UDSP students had the privilege of hosting not one but two green professionals for Week 5.
Nir Krakauer, a civil engineering professor at City College of New York, schooled participants about the different branches of engineering---mechanical, chemical, electrical, and civil. Amy Crews, one of New York City's premier landscape architects, wowed students with examples of projects she's worked on.
UDSP students listened attentively and asked Nir and Amy numerous questions about their respective fields. We were thrilled that the kids were excited to learn about sustainability related careers. The UDSP was designed, in part, to make students aware that they, too, can become green professionals if they want to.
Students also got to ply their skills at design again. They executed some top-notch designs based on their expanding knowledge of sustainability and permaculture.
The UDSP crew are doing a superb job taking care of Renaissance’s rooftop garden’s plants and vegetables. They're also diligently maintaining the UDSP compost bin, recycling organic matter into a deep, rich soil for our container beds.
The UDSP teaches kids about design, and sometimes you don’t need to look far for inspiration. Greg Kessler (Ezra’s dad) was kind enough to invite students from both classes to his house near Renaissance Charter School. Students saw a great example of a local residential urban garden.
They loved Greg's rainwater harvesting system that fed not only his garden but a separate rain garden. The kids also dug Greg's compost tumbler and munched on delicious grapes from his grape arbor. Ezra is sharing what he’s learned from the UDSP with his dad, so they can make their garden even better.
The UDSP offers many opportunities for students to learn and grow using a variety of teaching methods. For Week 5, we watched two movies about sustainability and permaculture.
The first, Inhabit, is a stunning visual film featuring some of the top names in permaculture break down their craft and concepts in ways that anyone can understand. We also screened Dirt The Movie, learning how urban development, industrial farming, and mining are creating drought and climate change. The film highlights individuals who are doing amazing work to restore our mutually beneficial relationship to soil.
Check out the trailers for both movies below:
In the UDSP, we switch it up whenever we can. Students got in a little exercise one morning, doing jumping jacks and push-ups to stay physically engaged. Sound body, sound mind!
We packed two field trips into one for our next to last week. UDSP students visited one of Brooklyn Grange’s two rooftop farms, the biggest soil rooftop farms in the world. Brooklyn Grange grows over 50,000 lbs of organic produce each year!
Students also made their way to Smiling Hogshead Ranch, a thriving urban farm on an abandoned MTA/LIRR terminal, previously an illegal dumping ground. Founding member Gil Lopez gave them a hands-on tour, letting students sample berries and vegetables. Hogshead is a permaculture demonstration site that practices bioremediation. They also donate a portion of their vegetables to the community for free. We encourage anyone to visit either Brooklyn Grange or Hogshead. Both are at the forefront of urban design and sustainability.
Angel: At Hogshead, we tasted some unexpectedly spicy flowers. Or maybe they were just hot. Some flowers tasted like lemon. There were berries that weren’t ripe but they still tasted good!
The kids really enjoyed going to Hogshead---maybe a little too much. A few were inspired to take impromptu showers on site, which Gil was happy to oblige.
Stay tuned for our final UDSP Blog about Week 6. We'll have some awesome photos of UDSP students' graduation, including their presentations. You don't want to miss it!
Justin Remus is the Communications Director of Beyond Organic Design.