In recent years, PS8 has worked to increase onsite gardening, composting, and recycling. See a PowerPoint Presentation presented to our PTA in February 2017, with details and pictures of our work.
We began to expand our focus on wellness initiatives as a result of grants from the Office of School Wellness starting in 2015-16. In 2017-18, as a result of growing interest in expanding and enriching health and wellness education across our lower and middle school campuses, our Wellness Council separated from the Garden Committee and became a committee of our School Leadership Team.
In April 2012, a group of PS8 parents, teachers and administrators formed our school Garden Committee, a group that includes our principal, building facilities manager, teachers and parents. Our Garden Committee generally meets monthly (in 2018-19, from 2:45-3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays — check the school calendar to confirm dates and times). Meetings are open to the public and new volunteers — especially students! — are welcome!
SLT Wellness Council (2017-18 NYC DOE School Wellness Council of the Year!)
In 2015, members of our Garden Committee began collaborating with our physical education teachers and others to consider how to better incorporate a broader array of wellness initiatives into our school’s programming, and our Garden Committee became our Garden Committee & Wellness Council.
Starting in 2017-18, our Wellness Council began meeting separately as a committee of the School Leadership Team, once a month from 4-5 p.m. on Tuesdays, alternating between lower and middle school locations (check the school calendar to confirm dates and times). In 2018-19, the Wellness Council is supporting continued development of health and wellness education at our lower and middle school campuses, alongside efforts to support expanded garden and nutrition programming, after school sports teams, and student support groups (starting with a middle school Genders & Sexualities Alliance).
The Garden Committee wanted to build on the work of former pre-kindergarten teachers who worked with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to build planters at the school. Our committee developed a grant proposal to build new, sub-irrigated planters to support an expanded gardening program. With the help of volunteers from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) program, and thanks to generous funding by New York City’s Grow To Learn program, we built and planted five new planters in the spring of 2013 and purchased two Urban Tumbler composters to start a small, on-site composting project at our lower school. The New York City Butterfly Project provided free native plants to create a butterfly habitat, and the NYC Parks Department facilitated our composting efforts by contributing leaves for our composters. The Promenade Gardens Conservancy and the Poplar Street Community Garden have also been generous with their time, tools, and wisdom.
In 2014, with continuing support from the Grow To Learn program, we embarked on a partnership with Teachers College at Columbia University to help our teachers develop, enrich and extend our existing curriculum with garden programming. We also were accepted to be a Garden to Cafe program school and had our first Harvest Day celebration, celebrating the fifth grade’s lettuce harvest with schoolwide presentations about nutrition and salad samples at lunchtime, thanks to supplemental produce from local greenmarkets. See a presentation by a fifth grader from that celebration!
In 2015-16, with the help of an Office of School Wellness grant, we continued our partnership with Teachers College Program on Nutrition, and developed and expanded garden-related enrichment of our curriculum (kindergarten daffodil planting; 1st grade bread unit; second grade brassica planting incorporated into our Garden to Cafe Harvest Day; 3rd grade Native American Three Sisters Garden; 4th grade composting (scroll down to “Around Our School”); and 5th grade nutrition, also incorporated into our school cafeteria).
In 2016-17, with the support of a continuation grant from the Office of School Wellness as well as another grant from the Grow to Learn program and a DOE Office of Sustainability School Grant, we are able both to again bring in a garden coach in partnership with the Teachers College Program on Nutrition and to develop a vision and plan for the redesign of our outdoor garden space to better facilitate learning and increase sustainability at our lower school!
In 2017-18, with continuing support from both DOE’s Office of Sustainability and the Grow to Learn Program, we implemented our front yard redesign, with determined help from families, teachers and students. New supporters of our front yard outdoor classroom project in 2018 included the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Citizens Committee for New York City, and the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board.
In 2018-19, as our lower school begins the process of implementing the new science standards and a new curriculum, our focus is on strengthening and enlarging the ways in which student-grown produce at our lower school is harvested and incorporated into food served in our cafeteria. We will also put the finishing touches on our front yard redesign/outdoor classroom, and open it up to use by all our lower school students.
Our original goals in expanding and formalizing our garden program at PS 8 were: (1) to provide a fun and educational means for our students to connect with their natural environment on a regular basis; (2) to increase the opportunities for hands-on learning as part of the science curriculum for all grades; (3) to raise awareness among our students and their families about water consumption, soil quality, and healthy foods; and (4) to create a natural visual oasis in what is otherwise a concrete urban outdoor environment.
Based on a presentation by fifth graders created as part of their Project Citizen curriculum in the spring of 2012, PS 8 was accepted into GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions program, which develops model recycling programs at 100 New York City schools each year, providing education, resources and support for recycling efforts. Beginning in 2013, Melissa Browning and Angie Nelson, PS 8 teachers and our school’s Sustainability Coordinator and former Sustainability Coordinator, began working with PS 8 students, staff and teachers, as well as recycling experts from the city, to increase recycling and recycling awareness at our school. Our Lower School Green Team emerged out of these efforts and now helps educate our students about recycling, composting, and saving energy. The Green Team also helps manage our small on-site composting project. With the Green Team’s help, our school community is learning about protecting the environment and making PS 8 as “eco-friendly” as possible.
In January 2014, PS 8 enrolled in The NYC Organic Collection pilot program spearheaded by the NYC Department of Sanitation. The program offers curbside collection of organic waste – including food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste – to select NYC schools, including PS 8, to divert organic material from disposal for beneficial use. Our lunchroom now boasts individual receptacles for waste, recyclables, and compost, and our students are learning which lunch waste goes where! Watch the Green Team’s educational (and fun!) video on how to dispose of your lunch waste!