When parents and teachers set out to build a space for students to do hands-on environmental science in the middle of Manhattan, the project ended up taking six years. The result is an outdoor classroom in an unusual location. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Observing plants, bugs and birds. Sketching, writing and discussing nature. This was exactly what parents and teachers dreamed the students at PS 41 would do with the new outdoor science lab. And since the only available space was on the roof, it also happens to have a pretty great view.
"Around 2006, I was kind of wondering what was on the rooftop," said Vicki Sando, the parent founder of the PS 41 Green Roof. "It was this massive space that nobody was using. There was no access to it. Obviously, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and that it would take six years. But it's been a labor of love. The primary goal has been to get kids outside and to reconnect with nature."
The ribbon was cut on the $1.8 million project Friday. They say it's the largest green space built to-date on top of a public school.
The money came from a diverse group. The PTA and local elected officials contributed, as well as national organizations, like the Wildlife Federation. Even local dive bars, known more for serving NYU students than funding public schools, contributed.
"Through this public-private partnership, working with parents, engaging the principal, working with city government, look what we can do to transform the education space of our city for our public school kids," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
But it hasn't been easy. The price tag wasn't the only hurdle. They faced structural concerns over how much weight the roof can hold, so they chose plants that can grow in the least amount of soil. They also faced bureaucratic obstacles.
"School Construction Authority originally was very hesitant to do this type of project," Sando said. "Now, they've been extremely supportive and we're hoping that it will encourage other schools to have a faster track."
With one of the lowest poverty rates of any city school, PS 41 has access to resources many other schools might not. But they're already working to help other schools.
"We've put together sort of a guide book on what to expect, what are the hurdles that we faced, who are the people that you go to within the community and within the government that can support a project like this," said PS 41 Principal Kelly Shannon.
The teachers say students immediately took to their newest classroom.
"They just took off, made sketches," said teacher Joaquin Rodriguez. "One child even wrote a poem, a scientific poem. And I was just really inspired by their enthusiasm and curiosity and I saw first hand, 'Oh my God! This is what we've been waiting for for so many years.'"
The project is still ongoing. Only half the roof is open to students. Someday, they hope to raise the additional $2 million it will cost to expand the garden.