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Greening the school during summer recess

Posted on | July 31, 2009 | No Comments

img_0564School’s out for the summer but for 11 girls at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women, it’s time to get their Green on!

This spring Ellen worked with 2 of the UA’s excellent teachers Noam Pillischer, a math teacher and Kelly O’Conner, an English teacher, Mara Lewin-Tankel, the UA’s Development Director and Micah Kotch of the Polytechnic Institute of NYU to develop a green curriculum for the UA’s summer program, called The Green Team.

The curriculum includes lessons about ecology, energy conservation, food and other environmental issues.  A central feature of the program is to have the girls get some hands-on experience and build something.  The idea is to have a rarely used courtyard become a kind of outdoor classroom with the girls building planters and benches to be used by all the students when they return to school in the fall.

During one of the first sessions, the students watched An Inconvenient Truth. “Kind of bland” was the review by one of the students but things got better as the program progressed.  Later trips to the green cafe Habana Outpost was a lot of fun and a visit to the Climate Change exhibit at the Museum of Natural History was interesting and inspiring.

Guests came to speak to the girls such as Zack from Green Guerillas, who spoke about helping people establish and maintain community gardens.  Yours Truly (Ellen) spoke about green building and what were the ideas behind the design of the courtyard project.  Mihail Kossev from Edible Landscape came to speak about how different vegetables grow in urban environments.

Now to the fun part.


Picture of the courtyard "before"


Drawing of the plan for the green courtyard

The area at the far left will be an outdoor classroom.  Eventually we want to plant green roof modules to make the areas feel a little cooler and quieter.

The triangles painted on the pavement are based on various mathematical concepts (full disclosure – Noam had to remind me about the triangle formulas – but it came right back I swear).  All the triangles on the right side are 3-4-5 triangles in different sizes.  No matter how you measure them, the proportion stays the same.  The girls did a FANTASTIC JOB of measuring and painting the triangles as you can see.

Measure twice...cut once

Measure twice...cut once

Making a triangle template on a rainy day

Making a triangle template on a rainy day

Painting the triangles

Painting the triangles



The center area is meant to house the long planter beds.  We gave the girls  step-by-step drawings of the planters and benches and they used math to figure out the amount of wood they would need.

Calculating the sizes of the wood pieces

Calculating the sizes of the wood pieces

Measuring the wood

Measuring the wood

This is the bench they are building:




And here’s the planter:






Stay tuned for pictures of the finished courtyard.


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Established in 1999, Ellen Honigstock Architect PC is a full-service architecture and energy auditing firm based in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Our solutions are environmentally conscious and the criteria we use are based on national standards developed to bring long-term saving, efficiency and well-being to our clients. Over 35 years combined experience building in New York City gives us an edge in meeting tough schedules and navigating the city's complicated requirements.

About Ellen:

As the Residential Green Building Advocate for the Urban Green Council since 2007, Ellen has been promoting sustainability in the residential marketplace in NYC.

In the position of Chair of the Homes Subcommittee the NYC Greening the Codes Task Force, Ellen has been heavily involved in recommending new green policy in NYC as related to updating building codes, rules and regulations.

Ellen teaches Building Science, Building Envelope, Water Conservation, Indoor Air Quality, Quantifying Energy and Green Building Plans at the 1,000 Green Supers program for The SEIU Local 32 BJ Thomas Shortman Training Fund.

Registered Architect, NY, NJ, CT
LEED Accredited Professional
BPI Certifications:
Building Analyst
Energy Efficient Building Operator
Multi-Family Building Analyst

Ellen Honigstock, LEED AP
Ellen Honigstock Architect PC
45 Main Street #806
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(212) 228-1585


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