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Want a Sustainable Future? Educate for it!

Repost with permission from:, &
Published June, 2015. Written by Christine Kennedy

Jaimie Cloud, Founder of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, with other education reformers, is looking to change K-12 education to create citizens ready for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.  She has built principles and curricula supporting Education for Sustainability. The list of school districts that she has helped transform are on the Cloud Institute website’s client list.

Education for Sustainability stands in contrast to Educating about Unsustainability: the depressing story of how much is wrong with the world and how horrible we are as humans for destroying the planet and each other.  While many feel that “fear, doubt and uncertainty” is an effective way to wake people up, Cloud believes that it has the opposite effect on the psyche.  The brain shuts down when it perceives a threat and stops participating, leaving the body to fight or flight.  A disengaged brain is not effective if you’re trying to change mindsets. Jaimie tells a story about her preschool daughter coming home sad that “air pollution is bad.”  She didn’t fully understand why or even what air was but while she knew that bad stuff was out there, she didn’t know what she was supposed to do about it. What a burden for a 3 year old!

Educating about Sustainability presents a hopeful view of a new future: good food, community, living within planetary boundaries, meaningful work, and joy.  Jamie feels, however, that prior efforts at this lacked the competencies for building this wonderful future. She has set out to remedy that.

Educating for Sustainability (EfS) is based on the belief that we must create new neural connections.  Cloud suggests “an alternative to the air pollution story teaching children about the reciprocation of plants and humans:  humans breathe out CO2 which plants use to create food and give out O2 that humans can breathe in to support life.”  What student wouldn’t appreciate plants after that type of lesson? Of course this is a very simplistic view of the CO2 problem, as it relates to climate change, but it’s a foundation level appropriate for pre-school that can then support advanced learning in planetary systems as a child progresses through school.

Cloud’s journey toward EfS begins in Evanston, Illinois, as a student in one of the first Global Education schools.  It was 1968, the Vietnam era. The world was in turmoil, and schools were not immune. Global Education was created by professors at various universities with schools of education who came to believe that U.S. schools didn’t prepare their students for the complexity, diversity and uncertainty of the world around them. They came together to create curricula to ready students for the 21st century, which was still 30 years away.

Students, even as early as 6th grade, began to track data about the planet: the loss of languages and biodiversity, the changes to the atmosphere.  The data they collected showed that many aspects about our planet were in decline. Cloud felt like “the boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Didn’t anybody else see the problem?”

In 1987 with the Brundtland “Our Common Future” report that there was a name for this: unsustainable.  The 1992 Rio Summit then created Agenda 21, a roadmap for sustainability.  Within this was Chapter 36 delineating the first set of competencies needed to educate young people for the future.  Using her early schooling and the UN’s new competencies, Cloud began collecting and collating curricula for Educating for Sustainability from around the globe: working with NGOs, University Centers, Ministers of Education, local schools.

Today, there is more pressure for schools to reinvent their curriculum through the lens of sustainability.  The Center for Green Schools from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has a goal that every school becomes a green school in this generation. The U.S. Department of Education has set 3 pillars to define a Green School: 1) health of occupants, 2) green building and 3) curriculum and instruction.  The first two pillars have more data and better defined standards. The third pillar is less defined and caught in the trap many feel that that EfS, Educating about Sustainability and Education about Unsustainable are equivalent. Outcomes of these different pedagogies need field analysis.

A three issue series in the Journal of Sustainability Education, seeking to bring the field together in a coherent manner, is being guest edited by Cloud.  The first was issued in late 2014. The theme is an invitation to scholars and thought leaders to weigh in on the essentials. A matrix of their work was created that spanned nine competency categories. The second issue, currently being edited, is a meta-analysis of the information received using grounded theory methodology to create benchmarks and measure impact.  The third issue will call for exemplars based on the nine competencies matrix and the meta-analysis.

What Cloud is doing is somewhat risky. Even Cloud Institute’s framework could need to change based on the creation of the new pillars. “But it’s worth the risk so that there can be a meshed framework”, says Cloud.  She believes that “one big area that needs to be included as a standard now as a result of our consensus process is the epistemology of thought: cognitive frameworks or ‘thinking about thinking.’ ”. It is difficult to shift mental models if you can’t recognize them or have language to describe them.

With all this is exciting work, there is still frustration.  Many sectors—government, business, energy, food, design—are addressing global un-sustainability, but to date, K-12 education has not been invited to the discussion table. There is little investment from the corporate or philanthropic worlds. Cloud has three ideas for why this is the case:

1)   Education, for good reason, is not considered innovative. For many, school was the least creative experience of their lives and they’ve had to unlearn mental models that keep them from building a sustainable world. To transform society we need to transform education. This is a daunting task.

2)   Investment in education is considered a 20-year payback and there aren’t 20 years to make the shift. “This is a classic misunderstanding of the power of youth leadership,” says Cloud. Young people are not afraid of innovation and their minds are creative, as long as they are given permission to use them. Adults who will not change their mindset for their own sake will break through mental brick walls for their children. See organizations like Teens Turning Green or Two Angry Moms.

3)   On the school side, branding as “Education for Sustainability” sounds like there is an agenda.  However, once educators see the curricula and programming they realize it is a curriculum based in meta-cognition, science, math, humanities and everything that goes into a good education.

The biggest barrier is understanding what EfS is all about. The EfS standards complement and can help make come alive the non-negotiable standards being imposed on school districts.

Some of the most enthusiastic supporters are underserved communities. The whole idea of sustainability is built around a positive reinforcing loop of justice, community health, and elimination of poverty. For teachers, it’s not just another set of standards they need to meet; teachers are remembering why they became educators.

I can’t help but be excited every time I talk to Jaimie. It is “joyful work” for her.

How can we all help her bring the vision of EfS to life? As a parent, you can encourage your local schools to engage in the EfS revolution. As an educator, build the competencies into your curriculum.  As a sustainability leader, bring educators to the table. As a citizen, support and advocate for systems that make a difference.

Originally published on Fairy Ninjas, Christine Kennedy’s personal blog. Christine is a scientist and engineer who sparks connections between people and ideas. She has experience with product development and sustainability impact metrics. Her objective is to make science accessible and relevant to a diverse population driving better social, economic and environmental solutions. She completed her Bard MBA in Sustainability in May 2015. You can follow her @CKennedySTEM


Jaimie Cloud Wants YOU to Say No to Waste!

Repost with permssion from:
Published October 2015

The more people I educate for sustainability, the more I am convinced that it is not our values that need adjusting, it is our thinking.

I don’t meet too many people with unjust values. I meet educators, students, community members, and people who work in non-profit organizations, businesses, and community based organizations, and governments. Our values are perfectly reasonable by any ethical or moral code. For the most part, the people I meet and work with are good people who love their families and friends, work hard at meaningful jobs, pay their bills, and want to leave this world better than we found it. So the question is, how could such good people be responsible for undermining the health of the living systems upon which our lives and all life depend?

The answer: the unintended consequences of our behavior are inconsistent with our values, and the laws that govern the physical world in which we live—and we simply did not see that coming. So what can we do about it? One of the Big Ideas of Education for Sustainability is, “Live by the Laws of Nature: We must operate within the physical laws and principles derived from nature rather than ignore them or attempt to overcome them. It is non-negotiable.” If we don’t have a choice, how is it possible that we are not abiding by them?

The 1st Law of thermodynamics, a law of physics, explains why matter and energy don’t appear or disappear from Earth—why we say there is no such place as “away”. Here is a classic example: as a result of the forces of gravity and the 1st Law of thermodynamics the stuff we have here on Earth—the water, the soil, the metals, the yogurt containers, the whole material world—is what we have to work with, forever. Everything we eat, breath and use comes from somewhere on Earth and goes back to somewhere on Earth. Since matter cannot be created or destroyed, nature up-cycles everything, creating value every time ­­­things move through the cycle of biological materials, and so life goes on. While entropy (another law of physics called the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) breaks things down over time, photosynthesis puts it all back together by producing order and structure. Think: trees, leaves, decomposition, soil; trees, leaves, decomposition. More examples of material cycles include the rock cycle, the water cycle, and the nitrogen cycle—around and around and around they go…that is how it works.

Somehow, we good people of planet Earth must have missed the memo.

We produce materials that can’t join the biological cycle and create a thing we call “waste” i.e., materials that have no use. Even things that can be composted end up in the waste stream. We produce waste and we throw it out to a fictional location we call, “away”. We have been ignoring the 1stLaw! We are, in fact, the only species that leaves behind materials that have no value to any other living system. The only one. “Waste” has become such a normal thing that we don’t even think about it. What are we thinking? We need a new normal.

A no waste society will contribute to our ability to be a sustainable society. That is where we are headed. After all, waste is, well, a waste. For every 100 lbs of manufactured goods we produce, we generate 3000 lbs of waste in the U.S. (Hawken). We waste 50% of our food in the U.S., and the same globally (USDA). Given that more and more people are going hungry in this world– especially farmers, it is as wrong as it is unfair. It is unsustainable for us to continue to use up natural resources (forests, fisheries, farmland) at a rate of 50% faster than the Earth is able to replenish them—and a huge part of our ecological footprint is waste and wasted. We have a design challenge and we have a different choice to make. The design challenge is fairly straight forward. Design and use things that can be re-used, upcycled, or continually left out of the waste stream. We already have a “techno-cycle” (a human-made invention that mimics the way nature cycles materials) for things that can’t go back to nature (plastics, metals, chemicals etc.). So let’s stop pretending that there is such a place as, “away”—and cycle things we can. We can all take responsibility for the difference we make. Simply put, we need to become conscious of where our stuff comes from, what’s in it, and where it is going when it leaves our care. It is a lot of responsibility, so it will be easier if we keep the flow of stuff, to a minimum. Anything that can go into the compost pile and back to nature contributes to nature’s ability to sustain our lives and other life on Earth. Anything that can’t, needs to be continually up-cycled in the techno–cycle. No waste. A healthy, fair and sustainable future is possible and everything we do and everything we don’t do makes a difference.



EfS in Schools | Sustain: Find your Sense of Place

Repost with permission from:

by Kirsten Beneke - Compass Charter School 

Published October 2015


Intro by Jaimie Cloud: Client Feature

Michelle Healy and Brooke Peters (co-directors at Compass Charter School) first came to see me before they received their charter and three years before their school would open.  They and their third co-director Todd Sutler have all been master teachers and wanted to start a K-5 school that educated for sustainability.  I have been working with them ever since.  We are in the second year of the build out of the school.  They have done everything right.  This is the way to start and sustain an excellent school designed around how students learn, for the future we want.  Read what they are doing and understand why they have already been named one of the 41 Most Innovative Schools in the Country.

Students are learning how to be scientists by making observations and using their five senses. They are asking questions, making predictions, experimenting and sharing their findings.

  •     Measured gourds and pumpkins
  •     Found out whether objects float or sink
  •     Predicted which objects fall faster
  •     Made scientific drawings of nature
  •     Sorted natural objects
  •     Explored magnets

In the science center we made lava lamps, blew up a balloon with baking soda and vinegar, and experimented with milk, soap and food coloring. We made many "predictions" by guessing what will happen in our experiments!

First Grade
First Graders are sharing what they know about the Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars. We are wondering about the solar system and asking many questions. Starting tomorrow we will begin our projects.

Some of the student ideas:

  •     Make a Planetarium
  •     Build a sun out of legos
  •     Create a weather center
  •     Paint a mural of constellations

Second Grade
Second Graders are studying natural ecosystems found in Brooklyn such as a forest, river or wetland. Students created group projects using recycled and natural materials to recreate these places. We created a picture map of Brooklyn showing what kinds of plants and animals are found in Brooklyn.


We have started building aquaponics systems to grow food in the classroom using fish waste to fertilize the plants.

If you would like to contribute a goldfish let me know!

Children need connection with the natural world:


  • Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit.
  • Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
  • Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.


  • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
  • Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening.
  • Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.


  • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
  • Play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.
  • Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.

--- from the National Wildlife Federation

Ideas on Natural Places to Go:

  •     Fort Greene Park
  •     Prospect Park
  •     Marine Park
  •     Greenwood Cemetery
  •     Jacob Riis Park
  •     Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
  •     Sunset Park
  •     Dead Horse Bay

News Articles:

"Why We All Need A Dose of Vitamin N" by the Daily Mail

"Nature Smarts" by Mindful Parenting

"The Greenest City in America" by Treehugger


 Events and Classes:

  • Connected Worlds
  • Brooklyn Sewers: What’s Up Down There? (Through May 29)
  • Cooking With Frida (Through Nov. 1)
  • The Gazillion Bubble Show: The Next Generation (Friday through Sunday)
  • Honey Weekend (Saturday and Sunday); grounds admission on Saturday is free until noon.
  • If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home (Through Jan. 17) Maps


Nature's peace will flow into you
as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own
freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off
like autumn leaves.
- John Muir


How Does Your Garden Grow? A Systems Approach

Repost from:
Published, June 17, 2015. Written by Rebecca D. Niles

This past weekend was perfect for gardening. The sun was hot, the pool was cool, and I had just created four new beds in need of mulch.  As I was tossing mulch, I contemplated my garden - especially the ever-present question of annual versus perennial flowers.

For those who don’t know, there is a major difference between annual and perennials.  Annuals are flowers that die after the end of each season.   Perennials are flowers that come back year after year.

“Why would anyone ever buy an annual?”, you might ask.  Well, let me explain.  Annuals tend to flower with color all summer long.  They are cheaper and deliver a brilliant, immediate spectacle.  The only downside is they require effort and expense each year as you buy new ones and plant them over and over again.

Perennials, on the other hand, cost more initially.  They also flower less brilliantly and over shorter periods of the summer.  They therefore require significantly more up-front effort and cash expenditure to create a colorful, summer-long garden.  Unless you are willing to spend the time and thought necessary and to wait for a few years for the initial plants to grow large enough for splitting and spreading, a perennial garden will require significantly more money to create a masterpiece.

It is due to this tradeoff that most of my gardening friends have a strong preference for annuals.  The allure of the immediately beautiful garden draws them right in.  They get trapped in the everlasting cycle of buying and planting annuals with no time or money left for the perennial.

They don’t realize the joy of perennial flowers popping up in the spring with absolutely no work on the part of the gardener.  They saw my puny garden in the first few years of home ownership and were not inspired.  It was not until now, almost four years later that passersby can see the results.  My puny perennials are now huge, and I have distributed them throughout the yard.  And they pop up to surprise me constantly in an ever-shifting display of color.  

My work from the early days is paying off and most of the original beds now need very little work.  The neighbors now go on and on about how beautiful my garden is.  And it is all due to the power of perennials.  All this praise as I spend my time relaxing (or blogging) or on creating entirely new beds from the ever expanding plants born of earlier labor.

The gardener’s choice between annuals and perennials is similar to the choices we make everyday in many other arenas.   Do we choose the fast and easy solution or do we spend the extra up front time and money for a solution that is more sustainable?  Do we invest in preventive care and effort for our personal health or do we treat illness symptoms? Do we invest in preventive care in our healthcare systems or do we spend our energy treating the chronically ill?  Do we invest in developing relationships with key international leaders, or do we allow situations to deteriorate until bombing seems like the right choice? Do we build shelters for homeless, or do we invent in finding permanent homes?  Do we do what it takes to eradicate polio, or do we wait until it rears it head again and respond as needed? Fast solutions often lead to constant toil and spending, while more enduring and sustainable solutions usually require huge upfront investment, but will allow us to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor in the future years.  The latter is what we can achieve through Systems Thinking – a long-term, holistic look at the choices we face.   How does your garden grow?

In addition to the linked blogs, here are a few more articles that explore in more depth the choice between short term and long term actions:

©2015 Leverage Networks


Thank You! Letter from a Parent: Derryfield School in Manchester New Hampshire

Intro by Jaimie P. Cloud

I work in the field all the time. I see happy teachers and beautiful units and courses that educate for sustainability. I see authentic assessment instruments carefully crafted to capture student learning, and I see student work as evidence that children and young people are thinking differently and contributing to sustainability as a result of what they are learning in school. What I don’t have the opportunity to see too often is letters like the one below. I am sure this is not a rare occurrence but it certainly is nice when people share what happens next…

I worked with Brent Powell of the Derryfield School in Manchester New Hampshire during our Summer Design Studio and then again a few more times during a series of follow up coaching sessions with him.

This Environmental Studies course was innovated (sustainablized) to prepare students to play a role in creating a healthy sustainable future for humans and the living systems that support life. The overarching question for the course is: What Kind of Future will we Invent?

The course is divided into four units of study:

  2. ENERGY: What will it take to create an energy system in New Hampshire that contributes to our vision of the future?
  3. FOOD: What will it take for New Hampshire to secure a food system that supports the vision we have for our future?
  4. CONSUMPTION AND THE MATERIALS CYCLES: How can we produce and consume responsibly within the means of nature?

Letter from Brent Powell

Dear Jaimie,

As we wrap up the year I [wanted to let you know] that the work we did last year made a big difference in my course.  So thank you!  Below you'll see a note I just got from one of my student's parents.  I thought you might enjoy seeing it.


Letter from the parent of one of Brent’s Students

Hi Brent,

I thought you might enjoy hearing about the impact you have had on my daughter this year.

“A” was studying for her final this afternoon when her Grandfather stopped by to visit. He asked “A” a few questions about the Environmental studies class. It was initially met with humor and sarcasm as she expected. By the end of a two hour conversation, which attracted my husband and a few other guests, “A” landed herself a summer job.

“A” will research the cost of putting solar panels on all of the commercial real estate properties her grandfather owns. She challenged her Dad and Grandfather to really consider changing their environmental footprint. She debated until they really did begin to look at the difference that was possible. So although small changes in lighting were put into place this year, she has encouraged them to consider more.

I was impressed and so proud of her.  Thank you.

* Thank you Brent for sending this to me, and Thank you “A” for taking responsibility for the difference you make. *


Is this Education for Sustainability?

Is this Education for Sustainability? - Jaimie P. Cloud

The questions I ask faculty and administrators to consider when I am invited to a school to audit their sustainability education program are:

  1. Have you chosen a set of Education for Sustainability (EfS) benchmarks for the faculty to design, teach and assess with?  
  2. Do you document and map the curriculum?  If so, is it a living document that is continually improved and innovated over time?
  3. Does the faculty use the benchmarks to assess for evidence of EfS? 
  4. Do they explicitly communicate quality EfS performance criteria to their students?
  5. Do you have student work as evidence of the enduring understandings, knowledge, skills and attitudes of EfS?

If the answer is “no” to all the above, then my next question is,

6. Is there a shared understanding within the school community of what Education for Sustainability is?

If the answer is “no”, then my next question is,

7. What can I see?  Where can I look for evidence of EfS in the Curriculum?  I learned a long time ago that even if the answers to all my questions are “no”, it doesn’t mean people are not educating for sustainability.  It simply means we have to ask the next question, which is “how can we know?”

The way The Lovett School in Atlanta Georgia addressed my last question was to provide me with an extensive list of Stage 3 (UbD) curricular activities that the K-12 faculty was asked to prepare so that I could help them determine to what extent they were, indeed, educating for sustainability. 

I read through the list with great interest, honored that they took the time to carefully describe what they have been doing.  I didn’t actually consider using any of it in my audit because anecdotal information is not evidence I can assess.  However, after some conversations back and forth with the leadership team, we agreed that it would be valuable to all of us if I were to annotate the descriptions I was given to let the faculty and administration know how we can know if they are educating for sustainability at Lovett. 

Ordinarily I would have recommended that we use the Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards and Enduring Understandings as benchmarks against which I could annotate their descriptions, but I am working with the Journal of Sustainability Education to build consensus among EfS thought leaders and scholars on Sustainability Education Benchmarks which will be published this summer, and we all agreed that Lovett should wait for the new Benchmarks—since our work will be influenced by them going forward.  So, I decided to use my experience and my knowledge of EfS to inform my annotations.  I do this kind of work with faculty all the time in conversations during our coaching sessions.  The work of “sustainablizing” the curriculum is difficult to describe if you are not the one experiencing it—maybe even if you are.  I do hope that by capturing this work in writing, that I can increase understanding and shed some light on what it means to educate for a sustainable future, and how that is similar to, and different from, other types of education.  Some themes you will see over and over again:

  1. Document document document.  That way we can know what to keep, what to change, what to stop doing and what to start doing.  If you design, document and map in a robust mapping software, we can do all the analytics we want to do with the push of a button.
  2. If you use UbD/Backwards Design to document and map the curriculum, Stages I and II  (Outcomes and Assessments/Performance Criteria) will be clearly articulated so when we look at Stage III (lessons/descriptions of lessons) we can look for congruence between the 3 stages.  “If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.”
  3. Collecting, sorting and calibrating student work as evidence of EfS is essential if we want to get this right.
  4. A shared understanding of what EfS is, will send a consistent and reinforcing message to students, and will have synergistic results over time.  It is critical to differentiate between educating about sustainability, educating about un-sustainability and educating for sustainability. 

Click Here to read excerpts from The Lovett School descriptions with my annotations.


Sustainable Jersey for Schools | Take Action, Earn Points, Get Certified!

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program for New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future, one school at a time.

The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education is a Task Force Member, Advisor and Service Provider to Sustainable Jersey for Schools, and we can assist you. We have selected the actions required that best suit our expertise and we stand ready to serve the NJ schools and districts seeking certification. We can help you earn up to 205 points towards your certification and more importantly, we will help prepare your administrators and teachers to educate for a sustainable future by inspiring educators and engaging students through meaningful content and learner-centered instruction.

The actions that we can assist with include: Student Learning, Learning Environment, Leadership & Planning and Innovation Projects. The full list of actions are available here. If we can be of service in any one of these four areas, please contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation with Jaimie Cloud to discuss how we can help you reach your goals.

Learn more about the Cloud Institute's program for Sustainable Jersey Registered Schools and Districts:

Additional information and a downloadable flyer detailing your options for earning points with The Cloud Institute is available here:

Contact us today to schedule a 30 minute complimentary consultation to begin planning your school or districtict's EfS program.


Sustainability in Schools is Much More than “Going Green”

reposted from:, Published Feb 13, 2015

When most people think of the word “sustainability”, it conjures up images of “going green” and environmental programming. Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a new program for New Jersey school districts where the possibilities of saving money, making schools healthier, and preparing students for future sustainable jobs are the goal. Please Join host Ray Pinney as he discusses this exciting program with Donna Drewes, Co-Director of the Sustainability Institute.

Is Your School or District Ready for Sustainable Jersey Certification? Learn how the Cloud Institute can help you earn points and effect change in your school community.


NYC DOE CTE | Cloud Partnership & EfS Programming

The Cloud Institute is proud to announce our new partnership with The NYC Department of Education's High School Career Technical Education (CTE) Office, Envirolution One, a leader in sustainability education and career development in NYC, green industry experts, and Rubicon Atlas, the Curriculum Mapping Software.
NYC High School Career and Tech Education has over 300 CTE programs in 120+ schools, serving more than 120,000 students annually. The goal of the CTE Sustainability Education Initiative,  is to educate for sustainability across all career pathways over the next several years.  In this first year, we will work with faculty from Automotive, Solar, Green Building, Electrical, and IT to develop, map and pilot exemplary units of study that meet the Cloud Institute's EfS Enduring Understandings, Standards and Performance Indicators, as well as industry standards appropriate to each career pathway. The exemplary units will be piloted during the 2015-16 school year. This program is one of the ways that educators and students in NYC can contribute to the goals of ONEnyc 2030, which encompasses The Mayor's Sustainability and Resiliency Initiatives.


Help the Green Bronx Machine build the National Health and Wellness Center at PS 55 in the South Bronx.

Help the Green Bronx Machine build the National Health and Wellness Center at PS 55 in the South Bronx.

The Green Bronx Machine (GBM) has just inherited a 60 x 25 foot empty library in a 100+ year old public school building as their future home, and they are working to turn it into the National Health and Wellness Center in the South Bronx, an innovative and engaging wonderland where students can increase their academic performance and can grow their way towards a brighter future. 

GBM believes that healthy students are at the heart of healthy schools, and healthy schools are at the heart of healthy communities.  By integrating plant-based teaching with core school curriculum, they will grow healthy food, healthy students and healthy academic performance. 

So just what is the National Health and Wellness Center?  It is a place of inquiry and wonder, inspiration and aspiration, a place full of tactile and experiential learning opportunities for students and teachers.  

To make all of this possible, they will have the following four components:

  • Indoor Teaching Farm - we will teach students hands-on about food from seed to harvest, and will connect lessons to classroom curriculum.
  • Teaching Kitchen - we will teach students how to prepare and cook the vegetables they have just grown to create delicious, healthy meals.
  • Media and Resource Center - students will have access to computers for data recording and analysis, and internet for research and inter-classroom lessons with other schools across the country and internationally.
  • Indoor Community Farm - we will grow enough food to send 100 students per week home with bags of fresh vegetables, 52 weeks per year.

Educator and GBM CEO Stephen Ritz says, “It is easier raise healthy children, than fix broken men." With his work, he is simultaneously changing the way kids eat and learn.  Here is what the National Health and Wellness Center will allow him to accomplish within Public School 55:

  • Increased student engagement - He wants students to show up to school excited and ready to learn.  We want them to enjoy learning and develop a hunger for knowledge.  He will nourish their bodies and their minds.
  • Improved academic performance and test scores - as students experiment hands-on, they learn, and as they learn, they perform better!  He wants all of his 4th grade students to pass the New York State 4th Grade Science Exam this year, and he wants to send the first group of PS 55 students to the Bronx High School of Science.
  • Healthier students - as students understand where food comes from and how it grows, they will make better, healthier food choices.  Steve and GBM will provide ongoing, reliable access to healthy food right in school all year long.

GBM’s focus now is to embed their work into the entire culture of PS 55.  They know they can do this because they have generated incredible results in other schools, including: 

  • Targeted daily attendance rates increased from 40% to 93%
  • 100% graduation rate among participating students
  • 100% passing rate on NY State Regents Exam

Please support Steve Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine’s National Health and Wellness Center at Public School 55 in the South Bronx.  Find out how you can contribute at  

100% of the tax-deductible funds raised in this campaign will be used toward the purchase of equipment, facility upgrades, content creation, and operations in order to set this vision into motion.