EcoRyders

High-school students at the Point CDC in the South Bronx have organized the EcoRyders program. Older students teach middle-school students about the urban environment by helping community gardeners and discussing environmental issues. As an incentive to participate in this program, students create skateboards. They order parts, paint boards, attach the trucks, and learn skateboarding tricks. Recently Victor Davila, an organizer of this program, got requests to make eco-skateboards for Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

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Mosaics in the garden 2

Carol Kennedy, science teacher at the Satellite Academy High School in the Bronx, was finishing the mosaics that her students made on the last day of the program last week. Every other year Carol’s students complete their programs by creating mosaics, which beautify the garden along the wall.

Mosaics in the garden

Students from the EcoLeaders summer program at the Satellite Academy High School spent the last day of the program in the garden near the school in the Bronx. The educator Carol Kennedy describes what they did:

“Here’s the story. You probably noticed the other mosaics in the garden. About ten years ago I got a small grant to make a mosaic “peace” mural in memory of the 9-11 event. Since that time whenever I work with a group in the garden we always create together a mosaic as a sort of memory of the time we spent together.”

Environmental art

I’d like to feature a meaningful piece of art by Alejandra Delfin, a graphic designer at the Point Community Development Corporation in the South Bronx. This work was recently featured on the Just Seeds website. Some students in my research in the South Bronx work with Alejandra.

Alejandra’s profile copied from the Just Seeds website:
“Alejandra Delfin is the founder and executive director of Studio 889, a community printmaking workshop located in the Hunts Point community of the South Bronx. A native of Peru, Delfin studied at the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop and the Art Students League of New York. In Paris, she trained at the legendary Atelier 17 studio with renowned printmaker Stanley William Hayter, as well as at La Grande Chaumiere and L’École des Beaux Arts, Paris. She moved to the Bronx in 1989. Her work has been exhibited internationally, regionally and in New York City at various galleries and institutions, including BAAD!, the Bronx River Art Center, the Longwood Gallery, the Beacon Artist Union Gallery, the Broom Gallery, the Cinque Gallery, Smith College, the Brecht Forum, Convento de San Francisco Museo De La Nation, and the Aliansa Francesa in Lima, Peru. Delfin is currently a fellow of the Sustainable South Bronx Fabrication Laboratory.”

The Mannahatta Project


In 2009 New York City celebrates the Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s voyage. He has sailed on his ship “Half Moon” from Amsterdam to explore an estuary from Staten Island to Albany, which is known today as Hudson River. He met with native Americans and observed almost undisturbed forested landscapes on an island, which is known today as Manhattan, or Mannahatta in a native language, the land of thousand hills. What has changed since that time? Streams, small lakes, hills, and forests gave way to skyscrapers and the first mega-city. Probably Hudson would never imagine this change, just like it is difficult for us to imagine what New York City will look like in 100 years from now.

This week Hunter College hosted a conference about the urban environment. One of speakers was Erik Sanderson. He is working on The Mannahatta Project, which recreates what Manhattan looked like 400 years ago – both visually and ecologically. Comparing the past and current Manhattan stimulates our imagination, and helps us to think about future changes of urban systems. This project is also very educational because it helps students to think about how to modify urban systems to make them sustainable and resilient in the long run.

Amphibious Architecture

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Illuminating glass pipes sticking out of the Bronx River look very futuristic and high-tech, they capture your imagination and stimulate curiosity. This fall the Bronx River features Amphibious Architecture, a fascinating education project designed by Natalie Jeremijenko, an associate professor at New York University, and her colleagues. The project is a collaboration between the Environmental Health Clinic and the Living Architecture Lab at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Yesterday Natalie conducted in Drew Gardens a presentation of this project for the Bronx community.

A quote from the Amphibious Architecture website: “Amphibious Architecture is a visual interface floating on the water’s surface, (…) housing a range of sensors below water and an array of light emitting diodes above water. The sensors monitor water quality, the presence of fish, and human interest in the river’s ecosystem, while the lights respond to the sensors, creating feedback loops between humans, fish in their shared environment. Additionally an SMS interface allows homo-citizens to text-message the fish and receive real-time information about the river, contributing towards the collective display of human interest in the aquatic environment. The aim of which is to simultaneously spark a larger public interest and dialogue about our local waterways.”

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About twenty youth and adults came to this presentation, most of them have stopped by during the Pedal and Paddle trip organized by the Bronx River Alliance. They were communicating with fish in the Bronx River by sending SMS (text messages) using cell phones. Then carps responded by activating blue lights in glass-made structures floating on the river as well as by generating automatic SMS responses sent back to people’s cell phones. I think this is such a creative way to inspire curiosity about science, and reconnect people with the natural environment.

Bronx River Crossing

Bronx River model

Today I came to the Hunts Point Riverside Park just on the whim after a meeting in this neighborhood. And what a surprise: after I walked through the park and approached the Bronx River, I saw several people from the Bronx River Alliance and Rocking the Boat who I collaborate with. They were doing something with a huge unusual structure floating on plastic bottles on water. It was the launch of the Bronx River Crossing model that represented the Bronx River watershed and was build primarily with reused materials. The SLO Architecture organization had worked with four student teams in the Bronx to build this model that demonstrates complex social and ecological features of the watershed. More information about the Bronx River Crossing can be found on Facebook.com. Building this model might have been educational for youth and has probably developed some skills or knowledge that are different from what you can learn from participation in actual restoration of urban ecosystems.