Teacher From The Bronx Builds A Green Classroom To Improve School Performance

Teacher From The Bronx Builds A Green Classroom To Improve School Performance
User Avatar
Updated 9 months ago

In what seems like a story from an inspirational film, teacher Stephen Ritz helped turnaround a struggling school in New York City with plants. After seeing one of his students use a flower to make peace with another, he started the Green Bronx Machine, an organization that implemented a “green curriculum” for grade school education. The model is now used in over 5,000 schools around the world as Ritz continues to grow the program.

Ritz grew up and became a teacher in the South Bronx, which was a difficult environment where kids regularly struggled with grades and showing up to class altogether. The only food options were heavily manufactured -- Ritz told NPR that it was “easier to buy liquor than lettuce” in the area. It was a poor and dangerous community that needed a spark, and it certainly got a vibrant one.

We are the change we want to see in the #worldwide #thebronx

A post shared by Green Bronx Machine (@greenbronxmachine) on

In what was mistaken as onions, flower bulbs expanded into daffodils after being hidden next to a radiator. During an altercation in the classroom, a boy appeared to grab a weapon after a girl didn’t want to put up with his annoying behavior any further. Instead, it was one of the daffodils and he used it as a peace offering. It’s a moment that fueled Ritz’s drive to create a green environment for his students.

An abandoned school library over 100 years old was converted into a large, green classroom called the National Health, Wellness, and Learning Center. This was where the Green Bronx Machine was born. Starting out as an after-school activity for students, it morphed into a fully-integrated curriculum for Kindergarten through 12th grade.

“We started as an innovative program for over-aged, under-credited, disconnected youths that's now become a way of life for everybody,” Ritz said in an interview with Mother Nature News.” “We believe that the art and science of growing vegetables align to common core and content area instruction that has helped the students, helped the schools and has helped the communities as evidenced by test scores, eating habits and school performance.

The goal was to provide awareness to students about living a healthy lifestyle. It would feature lessons in growing their own vegetables, teaching them responsibility, and it ultimately improved academic performance. Ritz’s students had better passing rates on their exams and they showed up to class more often. The idea has since been expanded to many other schools across the world.

Plenty of activities can be found at the Green Bronx Machine. There’s an indoor teaching farm that features seven tower gardens that are able to grow crops at any time of the year. There’s an additional outdoor garden that features a self-irrigation system and raised garden beds for further growing opportunities. A relatively new mobile cooking station was also installed to add to the experience.

Ritz continues to work at the Green Bronx Machine while also being a keynote speaker at events. He believes his “green curriculum” is a better option for schools because it works with the students on a daily basis instead of an optional after-school activity. This creates a parallel for better results in academics, attendance, and living a healthier lifestyle.

RecircNewsWhy This Dutch Town Installed Bat-Friendly LED Street Lights

To keep rare bat species in an area where they thrive, a community that's already created nearly 100 sustainable homes is changing their street lights. These new red LED bulbs will allow humans to continue operating at night while the bats can avoid it.

By Brian Spaen
2 weeks ago
RecircNewsEndangered Mountain Gorilla Population Is On The Rise Despite Challenges

Mountain gorillas remain an endangered species, but conservation efforts such as regulated tourism and habitat protection has increased their population over the last 35 years. It's jumped 25 percent in a specific African region in the past eight years.

By Brian Spaen
3 weeks ago
RecircNews'Slow Food' Movement Heads To China To Promote Local Foods

China continues to deal with rising population in their cities, and that includes immigration from other regions of the country. To promote local food growth, 1,000 "Slow Food" villages will be created in an effort to educate those on culture and sustainability.

By Brian Spaen
4 weeks ago
RecircCommunityThis App Encourages People To Take Pictures Of Their Trash To Make Recycling Easier

One of the biggest databases of pollution that's been picked up off the streets has been upgraded to make the experience easier. Litterati, downloadable on iOS and Android devices, now allows for better collaboration, advanced tagging, and easier photo uploads.

By Brian Spaen
1 month ago
Stay Green
Sign up for our newsletter