Service Learning & Sustainability

Season of Disasters Sparks Action
In the wake of this year’s unprecedented natural disasters across the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean Grace students have typically risen to the task and started initiatives to help those in need of aid. 

Students have developed projects in their homerooms and service learning classes -- collecting supplies, doing extra chores to raise money, and assembling disaster kits. The money and resources raised will be distributed to organizations like UNICEF, FDNY, Episcopal Charities and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation to support relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Mexico and Houston. In every grade, students have taken on the challenge of assisting those in need.  

In November, faculty members widened the conversation from supporting the relief efforts to the classroom. A group of teachers at the high school planned a program, Teach-In: Puerto Rico is US, to examine and explore the economic and political factors that have exacerbated the crisis in Puerto Rico. A number of scholars, journalists and experts led workshops, conversations and presentations about aspects of the island’s history, culture and status as a commonwealth of the United States.

Students moved between workshops seeking topics they wanted to understand more deeply. “The presentation shed light on the challenging problems in Puerto Rico after the hurricane, said Nina L ’20 following one workshop. “I realized that the hurricanes dramatically impacted every single person who lives there.” Students have extended their interest on the crisis in Puerto Rico into their Service Learning classes in the high school. Mr. Klebnikov’s 10th grade students created a digital resource page about the basic challenges being faced by Puerto Rico that informed fellow students how to approach their shared supply drive with Early Childhood and the 5th grade. 

Grace students have not just been focused on Puerto Rico. Ms. Culhane’s 8th grade service learning class developed a relationship with Friendswood School outside of Houston and held a special assembly to have a video call with students from that school. Spanish teacher Emily Cruz met with Early Childhood students to help them understand the impact of these disasters and discuss ways they, too, could get involved in the relief efforts.

Service learning programs and activities happen in every grade throughout every school year. This October, the Parents’ Association staged the annual Family Community Service Day, open to the entire Grace Community. As in the last few years, they collaborated with the Lower East Side Ecology Center at the East River Park Promenade to plant bulbs and help clean the park. Across the school students develop and carry out class service projects. Middle School students begin in-house community service in Grade 5, graduating to a service-learning program with local and global organizations in Grades 7 and 8. 

The oldest Grace students take a two-year Service Learning course supervised by Kim Chaloner, Dean of Community Life. “Each of our senior classes has researched, developed, and designed service projects in their junior year that they carry out for the fall and winter quarters of their senior year,” she said. “These have addressed many areas including tutoring young students at local schools, developing social equity workshops, building the roof garden at our 86 campus, going on a lobbying weekend for climate activism in Washington, DC, addressing education equity, and creating campaigns to address public misperceptions about incarcerated youth.
Page 2:
Alumni Fireside Chat
In June, the GCS Alumni Association held its inaugural Fireside Chat on The Science of Climate Change and Risk of Political Inaction. The talk was led by two alumni scientists: Dr. Jan Beyea '53, a researcher and consultant in the areas of Toxics, Human Health and Epidemiology, Forests and Wildlife, Sustainable Development and Energy Policy;  and Alexandra Boghosian '03, a graduate student in glaciology at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University who recently returned from fieldwork in Antarctica.  The two shared their insights on the complex nature of the relationship of climate science and politics; Katy Kuh, a professor of environmental law and GCS parent, moderated the discussion and provided perspective on the current legal challenges to climate science policy.

The event brought together an impressive range of alums, spanning decades from the 50s to the aughts, and even included a high school sophomore who had tapped Dr. Beyea as a March Madness mentor. As impressive was the range of fields the alums attending represented: a chemical oceanographer, an infectious disease specialist, a market researcher for energy companies, a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology—all women. Who says women don’t pursue the sciences? GCS women certainly do.

The GCS Alumni Association is planning future Fireside Chats on a range of subjects. They welcome suggestions for topics for future events.

GCS is #1 in Green Power for NYC
Grace Church School topped the EPA’s list of green power schools in New York City and currently ranks #12 nationwide. For nearly a decade, GCS has participated in programs that increase its use of renewable energy sources, including the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. 100% of the power the school used last year came from wind power. Relying on purely renewable energy to power the school is not only a reflection of a commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, but has also led to a significant decrease in energy costs. The school’s kitchens have reduced energy use as well, earning a Green Restaurant Certification from the Green Restaurant Association.

Junior Wins Grand Prize for Scientific Research
Junior Albert Kyi was awarded the grand prize of $5,000 from the Michael Perelstein Discover Your Passion Competition to continue the outstanding work he did for his year-long sophomore independent project, which we call “March Madness.” Albert built a Direct Air Capture machine (DAC), which is designed to remove carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as an effort to combat climate change.
In the building stage of his project, Albert connected with two professors and experts on climate change at Arizona State University. His project was featured on the university’s website. Read the full story here.