High School on a private island…in NYC (really!)

I know it’s been quite a while since I updated this blog. There’s a lot going on with ConnectFormation Consulting, which I will update  you on shortly. New clients, published articles , conference presentations and more are in the works and on the horizon.

In the mean time, I had to come here to tell you about a wonderful experience I had today when I was given a tour of New York Harbor School which is located on Governor’s Island in NYC.  Here is the website for NY Harbor School where you can read all about the history and philosophy of the school.

In short, the NY Harbor School is a small public high school which helps students learn through hands-on, inquiry based projects which center on marine life, water and environmental science. The students do a lot of work on the water in the NY harbor- rowing, planting oysters to restore the waters of the harbor and building boats and learning to drive them (at least I think you drive a boat! Maybe it’s “steer”. Hmmm).

Every NYHS students becomes a certified scuba diver by the time they graduate and they also get a boating license. They take a ferry to school each day and back home again and they are the only students on the island.

I became obsessedfascinated with the NYHS when I stumbled upon a documentary about it called “Classroom on the Water” (it’s on the nyc.gov website or watch )
If you have 30 minutes to spare, I encourage you to watch this documentary because it is really interesting.

When I watched that documentary in the fall of 2010, a seed was planted in me that this seemed like the type of high school my son (now 5 years old) would probably enjoy immensely. I was determined to see it for myself. It turns out that they are offering tours of the school as a way to build public knowledge and to pique the interest of rising 8th graders as they make decisions about where to apply to high school.

Here are a few pictures of my visit

Entrance to the Governor's Island Ferry. Students take a boat to high school!
Entrance to the Governor's Island Ferry. Students take a boat to high school!

A view of the NY harbor from inside the ferry
A view of the NY harbor from inside the ferry
This is the lacross field for the NY Harbor students
This is the lacross field for the NY Harbor students
Our tour guides, 3 fabulous seniors at NY Harbor School
Our tour guides, 3 fabulous seniors at NY Harbor School
Biggest composter ever. They compost their lunch waste!
Biggest composter ever. They compost their lunch waste!

Students plant and harvest vegetables and herbs
Students plant and harvest vegetables and herbs
Not your typical flyer in a NYC high school
Not your typical flyer in a NYC high school

Experiments with algae for the aquaculture class
Experiments with algae for the aquaculture class

NYHS is not perfect (what school is?!) They are currently faced with the challenge of being a school that accepts any student who applies (through the lottery), but some students may find that they are not actually interested in water and environmental science. I also didn’t notice any woman teachers during our time there- but to be fair, we only visited three classrooms. I also am wondering if there are teachers and administrators of color at the school. These are important questions because the population of the students is nearly 50/50 girls/boys and predominantly students of color. It’s important that students see their genders and cultures reflected as they make their ways through educational institutions.

I am interested in volunteering and working with NYHS to help it grow and become stronger because I believe that the curriculum and educational approach are exactly what we need to be moving towards in the US.

If you know anyone with a child who’s interested in water, the shore, environmental science, etc, please let them know about this school. It’s never too early to start exploring high school options- especially in NYC!

Part of a beautiful mural in the school
Part of a beautiful mural in the school
College acceptances!
College acceptances!
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