Students of Saint Adalbert School “Make Freshkills Park Their Park” For Final Project
After learning about Freshkills Park through tours and presentations, Saint Adalbert teacher Donna Dawson assigned a final project for her 8th graders to create an interpretive model of the park’s future, encouraging the use of recyclable materials. The students assumed the role of urban park planners, conducted research, constructed practical visions of the park, and wrote accompanying reports.
Environmental Education Coordinator Arturo Romua has been working with Saint Adalbert School in Staten Island’s Mariners Harbor since January 2016. He first visited the school for a class presentation and later led a biodiversity walking tour at the park with the 6th graders, covering the broad topic of Freshkills landfill-to-park development. With the knowledge that Freshkills operated as a landfill from 1948-2001 and accepted approximately 150 million tons of household waste, the students and the educators marveled at the fact that the site is currently undergoing transformation to become a sustainable park.
In the winter and spring seasons, Arturo had the privilege to additionally work with Ms. Dawson’s 7th and 8th Graders, navigating the topics of Freshkills’ history, landfill infrastructure, research projects, urban ecology, and more. Students initially received the landfill-to-park transformation with surprise at the concept, only to later embrace and appreciate the social and environmental benefits the park will offer in the next years.
Arturo visited Saint Adalbert to see the 8th graders’ final projects. Some of the students’ models included renewable energy sources, a greenhouse weather/research station, and a water filtration system. When he asked the students about their perception of Freshkills Park after completing their projects, they responded with the following comments:
- “The park is beautiful now. I learned that people didn’t always like Freshkills because it was a dump for too long. Now, people are going to Freshkills Park to play sports and enjoy nature with family and friends.”
- “I learned a lot after researching Freshkills Park. Before, I wasn’t sure if Freshkills was safe to be in, but after reading about the different layers covering the garbage, it made me feel comfortable. I can see myself visiting the park.”
- “Freshkills Park is not your typical park. It will have kayaking, horseback riding, and a lot more all in one place. You can’t find that anywhere else in New York City, and I am excited about that!”
- “I am very impressed with this project, and it was good that I learned about the history because I now know that we have a long way to go with reducing, reusing and recycling.”
As the 2015-2016 academic year comes to a close, educators are invited to learn more about the environmental education programs available to students for the 2016-2017 school year. With projects like those at Saint Adalbert, schools across New York City can make Freshkills Park their park.
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