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.


Environmental Job Skills Program at Rocking the Boat

Dawn Henning is an educator in the Environmental Job Skills Program at Rocking the Boat (www.rockingtheboat). High-school students in her program restore ecosystems in the Bronx River and participate in college trips. They also help scientific institutions monitor the quality and biodiversity of urban aquatic ecosystems, and teach communities about the river and rowing.

Photo: Dawn riding a powerboat with her students on the Bronx River, New York City.

I asked Dawn about the goal of her program and to share with me one teaching tip. Here is what she said to me:

“In Rocking the Boat’s apprenticeship programs the main goal is not environmental restoration and not turning all students into environmental scientists. We help high-school students explore what they like to do and they want to do. In addition, we help them to learn how the skills they are learning are transferable to other aspects of their life. My first teaching tip is to treat students with respect as adults. When you ask them something, you listen, and incorporate their suggestions in your program. You don’t say, “What you suggest is okay, but I’m going to do it another way.” For example, yesterday one of my students came with the idea of having a fun facts board to post any kind of interesting information about the Bronx River in our classroom. It will help visitors to see what we are doing, and it would remind ourselves of all cool things that we are learning. In addition, students have an opportunity to evaluate the program a few times during a semester. Through the evaluation early in the program students asked me to give them a day-to-day schedule of our activities, so now I give them the schedule in advance. Their suggestion has been instituted, and it really works and now students can better prepare themselves for each day, at least mentally.”

The Hunts Point Express

At the Key to the City ceremony in the South Bronx I’ve met Bernard L. Stein, the editor of several newspapers, who commented on environmental issues and youth in the Bronx. Below is the transcript of his recording.

“My name is Bernard Stein. I was the editor of The Riverdale Press in the North Bronx. Five years ago I joined the faculty at Hunter College and I started teaching a class called “Neighborhood News.” The students in this class are the reporters for the newspaper that we started together, called The Hunts Point Express. Last year I started another class at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where the students are the reporters for The Mott Haven Herald. The Express comes out every month, and the Herald is still a baby, it’s still learning to walk, so it comes out less frequently, but I’m hoping to make it a monthly publication.

We often publish articles about environmental issues in the area. The South Bronx is an environmental justice community that has been forced to bear the brunt of environmentally bad things. But there are a number of vibrant organizations that are working on the environment in one way or another – from Rocking the Boat that takes care of the Bronx River, to Sustainable South Bronx, and the Point CDC.

Young people are mobilized by these organizations. They are doing wonderful work in trying to improve the environment there. Planting urban farms, fighting all kinds of political wars like the Sheridan Expressway and the fertilizer plant. Young people play a very important role in that.”

A student profile of Alex Severino

I am using the narrative approach to explore educators’ and students’ experiences in urban environmental education programs along the Bronx River. These narratives may be used in an e-book in the future. Here I would like to share the first edited narrative story about Alex Severino’s experiences.

Download the narrative story (PDF file)

Alex Severino was a student in the On-Water program at Rocking the Boat in the Bronx, New York City. Now she works in this organization as a program assistant. Rocking the Boat has helped her to discover the environment, rivers, and animals in this borough. Alex’s story tells about her experiences on the Bronx River, how she perceives the Bronx, and how she shares her experiences with others.

Bronx River Student Symposium

Students presenting their research about the Bronx River at the Bronx River Student Symposium in Banana Kelly High School, the Bronx.

ACTION alumni meeting

Adam and Sharon, thanks for inviting me to the 4th annual ACTION Family & Alumni Holiday Dinner! It was a great overview of everything that high-school students in ACTION at the Point CDC, The South Bronx, are doing. Students have conducted short presentations about each of their numerous projects such as the Green Way, Urban Farming, restoration on the North Brother Island, and Go Green. While I am already familiar with some of these projects, I was surprised to learn that ACTION goes beyond the local environment: sometimes this education program sends students to experience the environment in other cities, countries, and even Antarctica. I look forward to conducting narrative inquiry with some of the most experienced ACTION participants next year to learn more in-depth about their experience in environmental restoration projects and how it influences students’ sense of place and social capital.

Invasive Species Removal

Can you believe that you are in New York City when you are walking through a dense forest on North Brother Island? This Island in the Bronx with the view of the Manhattan skyline had some houses and a hospital, which have been abandoned in 1960s. Now the NYC Parks Department manages this island as a non-cultivated land belonging to the NYC park system. The A.C.T.I.O.N. youth program from The Point Community Development Corporation in the South Bronx helps to maintain this area by removing invasive species several times a year. A.C.T.I.O.N. collaborates with the NYC Audubon on this project because the island is very important for birds nesting in this relatively isolated ecosystem in the middle of the city. This restoration project is a great learning experience for youth helping to improve ecosystems on this island because there are very few non-cultivated areas in the Bronx.