New High School Introduces Summer Program
Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability, a new school moving into its third year of operation has brought in a dynamic summer program that focuses on environmental issues that impact our community. Students transitioning from 8th to 9th grade as well as students currently attending the environmental sustainability themed school have a chance to participate and learn about local environmental issues. The summer program, also known as Summer Bridges provides students with the opportunity to acclimate themselves to their new school, earn an English Language Arts credit and establish positive relationships with their peers; All the while providing the students with an opportunity to learn about environmental issues within their very own community.
Principal Connolly made the decision to think outside the box and team up with two community-based organizations, which include Dance Theatre Etcetera and The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance to create these innovative programs. Dance Theatre Etcetera is working with the students to create public service announcements, a film documentary and a theatre performance to educate members of the community on these local environmental issues.
The students are learning about issues that affect Rockaway’s unique nautical landscapes through learning excursions facilitated by The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. So far students have tested water samples from the Jamaica Bay in addition to collecting oyster specimen. Students also participated in oyster farming in order to refurbish Jamaica Bay’s declining oyster population. Due to the outstanding efforts of The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, the establishment of the oyster garden has been a huge success. The oysters are growing larger and more rapidly than all other neighboring bodies of water in all of New York City. The purpose of the oyster garden is to identify and evaluate the positive impact these natural “filters” have on the local wetlands. In light of this educational exploration, RPHS has been inspired to construct their own personal oyster garden in the near future.
In the words of Rockaway Park High School students, “This program has been educational and fun for us. We not only learning about important issues affecting our community, but we get to have fun and do something about it!” Principal Connolly states, “I am extremely proud of my students at Rockaway Park High School. Sometimes the best learning takes place outside of the classroom and our students are taking their knowledge and using it to make it a difference.
Rockaway Park High School is off to a great start since opening in September 2010. The school is exceeding the city’s expectations while at the same time having a positive impact on the community by focusing on environmental issues that impact Rockaway residents.