New Freshkills Park Mobile Education Lab Makes its Debut

The Lab enjoys the panoramic views at Freshkills Park.

The Lab enjoys the panoramic views at Freshkills Park.

The exterior has been wrapped in vinyl. Microscopes and lab equipment have been safely stowed away. The disco ball has been installed.

This October, Freshkills Park’s Mobile Education Lab will host field trips for middle and high school students from across New York City for the first time ever. Educators are able to choose from one of four themed trips that investigate topics in either biodiversity + ecology, history + social studies, or art + design. Each trip reinforces what students learn in the classroom by demonstrating how different skills and subjects coalesce in real-life projects like Freshkills Park.

In the weeks before these first field trips, Freshkills Park staff have been testing the Lab out. It made an appearance at Discovery Day on September 18th, where 800 visitors were able to explore the newly renovated trailer. During the event, volunteers found new uses for the Lab by tying kites to the rear doors. One kite stayed afloat for a little over three hours.

On September 20th, Park staff brought the Lab to the Staten Island Arts 2016 Fall Arts Education Showcase, a semi-annual network building event that teaches participants about resources for arts education on Staten Island. This demonstration conveyed the methodology behind the Mobile Lab, particularly that place-based exploration can be a launching point for discussions on design, ecology, history and critical thinking.

This was the first time the Lab had been presented to the education community, and the response was overwhelming. Everyone at the Arts Education Showcase was excited about the Lab’s possibilities. They brainstormed ways to incorporate the Lab into their curriculum. Some imagined future appearances at their schools or programs. Others were inspired to create similar spaces for innovation and interdisciplinary investigation in their classrooms.

Park staff are excited by the positive feedback and the possibilities the Mobile Lab presents. As we witness how ecology, engineering, design, history and social sciences interact to solve 21st century challenges, the Lab will help students explore the landfill-to-park transformation as a poignant backdrop for education.

Written by Jessa Orluk, Freshkills Park Programming Associate.

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