NYC Schools Are Teaching Sustainability Through Green Roofs!

A percentage of New York City schools are getting some adjustments to their curriculum. For the past few years, green roofs have been teaching children about renewable energy and giving them a hands-on experience with nature. The first person who introduced a sustainability-inclusive green roof for the education system in NYC was Vicki Sando, a parent and science teacher at P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village. Back in 2003, Sando had an idea to create a garden at P.S. 41 when she realized the students were studying plant life and insects in the classroom, yet had nothing real to learn from besides textbooks or videos. There needed to be more green spaces. She built the garden near the cafeteria of the school, and it was soon being used to give children a first-hand learning experience with nature.

Not too long after that, in 2006, Sando decided she wanted to go further and started going through the processes to build a green roof at the school. After a few years of design and permit legalities, construction on the roof began in 2010, and solar panels were added in 2013. Yes, solar panels. Within in the 15,000 square foot green roof, there lies a singular row of solar panels on a closed-loop system.

The purpose of Sando’s green roof was unlike any other that had been previously done. She wanted to do more than have a garden, she wanted kids to be able to learn about renewable energy, and how to get involved in something truly beneficial.

Sando said, “My passion is getting kids interested in all of this. They are being handed a huge mess and it is our responsibility to give them the tools and make them aware of these concepts. These are big ideas but planting those seeds, just the awareness, kids have such wild imaginations for the solutions to these problems. You don’t want to scare them, you want to make them feel empowered by asking them what they can do to fix it.”

Since the installation of P.S. 41’s solar panels, the state of New York, and the city of New York, have set aside $28 million to go towards funding solar panels on 24 other public schools. April marked the beginning of installation on the first school, P.S. 69 in Staten Island. By the middle of next year, the remaining 23 schools are expected to have begun installation.

Though a total of 25 schools is not a huge percentage of the 1,800 public schools in New York City, Sando finds that to be beside the point. For her, and others, they’re and invaluable tool for teaching children about climate change and other concerns regarding the environment.

“More kids are living in cities, more people are moving to cities,” Sando said. “I think any time you can, you should have them in some green space.”

Enjoy the following pictures of Sando’s green roof!

Image credits: Megan Westervelt

Image credits: Pam Seltzer, Vicki Sando

Image credits: Carla Brown

Image credits: Jes­sica Bruah

Image credits:

Image credits: Pam Seltzer, Vicki Sando (left) | (right)

Image credits: Pam Seltzer, Vicki Sando

Image credits: Vicki Sando

Image credits: Pam Seltzer, Vicki Sando

Image credits: