PS 31 unveiled its new Green STEAM wing last Friday morning. The wing boasts two classrooms full of new technology and equipment to enhance learning on the subjects of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM).
The multi-year project was the result of a collaboration among elected officials, environmental organizations and the school’s faculty and staff. Funding came from a variety of sources, including the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), Borough President Eric Adams’s office and participatory budgeting from Councilman Stephen Levin’s office.
“It took a lot of patience, but it was a vision I had along with my staff,” said Principal Mary Scarlato. “We just weren’t going to stop until we got it done, and got it done the right way.”
Finally fulfilling the school’s “STEAM dream,” the new wing will allow PS 31 to offer a full program for science and tech education.
“Elementary school is where it starts. If we spike their interest here and get them involved, they’ll continue through middle school and high school,” Scarlato said. “This is part of college and career readiness.”
New features in the classrooms include two hydroponic growing towers, a worm bin for composting, 35 new laptops and an A+ Mobile STEM Lab. The hallway, completely decorated in green, also has a new mural that was illustrated and designed by students.
Science lab teacher Jacqueline Tesoriero said students have already been working on hands-on activities at each grade level.
“Their eyes light up when they walk into the room for the first time,” she said.
“What a great opportunity PS 31 provides for the students,” added District 14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki. “Every child deserves to have those opportunities.’
Alison Schuettinger, PS 31’s sustainability coach as part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Greenpoint Eco-Schools program, arrived at the school in fall 2015. One of her first actions was taking inventory of the electronic waste across the school.
Not only did she find unused, outdated and even broken electronics products, by the end of the year, Schuettinger worked with the Department of Education to recycle 8,000 pounds of electronic waste and heavy metal scrap.
“It was quite a lengthy process,” she said. “There was a lot to free up that space in order to give it new life and make it a new engineering tech lab.”
Like the three other Eco-schools in Greenpoint, PS 31 started a recycling program and an organics program in the cafeteria and classrooms, all with the goal of reducing waste by 25 percent.
Schuettinger said given Greenpoint’s industrial past and oil spill, putting environmental funds back into the community makes sense. She said it’s not just teaching the students about STEAM, but teaching it through a “lens of sustainability” to make it “Green STEAM.”
“We’re learning about science in relation to ecology and ecosystems,” she said. “We’re learning technology not just to design new things, but how to do it in a sustainable way.”
She said she has even seen a difference in the way science and environmental education is taught within the classrooms.
“It’s not out of a workbook or outdated textbook,” she said. “It’s more inquiry based, they’re asking more questions. It’s more experiential and hands on.”