Monday, June 13, 2011

Congratulations to my students from the Bronx!

June is already half over and that means the school year is nearly complete in New York City. Everybody is getting ready for summer, but some students enter the break knowing that when they return in September, it will be to new schools entirely. For students at PS/MS 15 in the Bronx, finishing 8th grade is a big deal. The Institute for Environmental Learning is a K-8 school, and most of the 8th graders have attended the school for 9 years. I was lucky enough to get to know some of the wonderful young people at 15 as a science teacher and environmental club sponsor.

This group photo in June 2010 features students from multiple grades
and includes a few returning Go Green alumni from previous years.

The environmental club, which we called “Go Green at 15,” was getting stronger each year, driven by the dedication of the students (and it still continues due to the dedication of its students and staff). We made quite an impact, recycling tons of paper and cardboard waste, educating people about worms, and composting food waste from the cafeteria. We also had a lot of fun exploring Bronx parks and playing Frisbee. One of the hardest parts of moving to Rwanda was leaving behind a strong program with exciting young environmentalists. 

Sifting compost they made from cafeteria waste

Working on sustainability issues here in Rwanda is quite different that in the Bronx. Right now, I am working on nature trail, a water conservation education program, and an upcoming environment day event. I work with young people here as well, however, and I often think about my former students for inspiration. As much as I helped them learn science, they helped me to learn about the motivations and needs of youth. As much as I taught them how to recycle, they taught me how to connect with people that were coming from very different places than I had. As Ms. Griffin, the principal at 15 that hired me, often said to the students and staff, “Tell them you were educated at PS/MS 15 in the Bronx.” Indeed, I was.

Yes, we did measure every load of recyclables. How else would we
know that we recycled over 5397 lb of paper in 2009-2010 alone? That
number would be higher, but we accidentally recycled the September-
October records. Too effective for our own good!!

Congratulations to the students that are moving on! I wish I could be there to see you graduate. I must also give a shout-out to the rock star teachers and administrators that year after year help young people to grow. And for those of you students moving up to 7th and 8th grade, keep making 15 green!

Hiking in Pelham Bay Park 2009


A sister and brother team up to stir the compost

When I was at the University of Missouri in 2004, Sustain Mizzou
started making and selling these reused notebooks. Although the
shipping from Mid-Missouri probably makes them less sustainable,
I thought they were very appropriate gifts to the environmental
club members.

A game of disc sandwiched in between the school building and
a brick wall... this was how we played in the Bronx.

Ha! This was one of the more unexpected events of my career thus far.
My 7th graders protested my inclusion of younger students in the
 Go Green efforts. I had to snap a picture. They eventually warmed up
to the young ones, and we accomplished even more because of it.

Worms ate our garbage

Recycling! Smiling! Hooray!

Birdwatching in Pelham Bay Park 2010

Pausing a game of 'bee for a flyover of a red-tailed hawk

Two sisters who both rocked the environmental club... now both graduates
of PS/MS 15

 Thanks 15 staff and students! Congratulations again!


  1. great post. i hope you and Michelle are doing well. i really like reading about your work (past and present) and look forward to seeing you when you return state side. best of luck!

  2. OMG ! These young children are an inspiration to kids all over the world . they are young bright amazing students.

  3. OMG Mr.Cole its your old class the 5thgraders you had that is now going to high-school next year!!!!!!! hope you are enjoying yourself and hope you can come for graduation!!!!!!!!!! we miss you and you were the best teacher!!!!!!!!!!!!

    From your students at PsMs15 SENIORS!!!