New Brooklyn school focuses on sustainability
by Andrew Pavia
Aug 29, 2012 | 4297 views | 0 0 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Play in the dirt during school hours, and then get graded on it.

The Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS) is looking to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into the curriculum. Along with math, reading, social studies and other typical subjects, this new school will have classes like composting, growing an edible garden and even monitoring the school's energy usage.

The school will be in District 15, which serves the neighborhoods of Gowanus, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Kensington, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. Roughly 100 sixth-grade students from the district will be randomly selected from a list of applicants. The lottery system will be held in March, and the students who have been accepted will be announced in April.

“We're unique in that we're very community based,” said Susan Tenner, co-founder and executive director of BUGS. She went on to say that the new public middle school will have a blend of hands-on learning programs while maintaining traditional modes of instruction.

The concept of using environmentally green practices as the focal point for BUGS was a result of the new staff discussing their past experiences as educators.

“We looked into different models and came to the science of sustainability as the centerpiece for the school,” Tenner said. “We had all had experience with the success of hands-on learning and project-based learning and it's ability to reach special education students, as well as high performers.”

Tenner said that the students will also be working with outside sources as well.

“We're working with various partners to try to figure out what projects we are doing with them that are really meaningful in our community,” she said.

One of those partners is the Green-Wood Historic Fund, which has already agreed to allow BUGS students to garden at the entrance to the cemetery. This will give students a better understanding of gardening, as well as teach the 6th graders about the incredible amount of history that has happened in Green-Wood, according to Tenner.

This combination of other subjects and science is a way in which BUGS will set itself apart from other middle schools. The use of hands-on projects, on and off-site learning, and traditional methods of teaching is what Tenner and her staff believe will make BUGS unique.

BUGS has received a $50,000 grant, which is part of President Barack Obama's stimulus money package.

With it's door set to open in 2013 the new school has a lot to do, but the staff at BUGS are excited to implement a unique curriculum.

When asked how important the focus on environmental sustainability is, Tenner said “I think it's essential and not a fad.”

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