Dr. Betty Rosa, New York State Schools Chancellor and Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronx Borough President, today cut the ribbon to officially open the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center, a first-of-its-kind,state-of-the-art facility housed within Community School (CS) 55, a 100-plus year old school in South Bronx.
Uniquelyconnecting science, technology, mathematics, gardening, ag riculture, cooking,nutrition, art and health/wellness, the National Health, Wellness and LearningCenter is complete with indoor gardens, robotics, a 100% mobile classroom kitchen with broadcast capabilities, solar and pedal powerstations and computer lab. It offers an innovative STEM/STEAM curriculum integrated with plant-based teaching lessons that align with core school curriculum.
Rosa and Diazwere joined at the ceremony by Luis E. Torres, Community School (CS) 55 Principal; Stephen Ritz, Global Teacher Prize Finalist and Founder of Green Bronx Machine; and, William (“Bill”) Yosses, former White House Executive Pastry Chef and Founder of Kitchen Garden Laboratory, as CS 55 fourth-graders highlighted the Center’s scalable, replicable, portable andhighly-efficient low-cost technologies, and cooked with Chef Yosses, using ingredients grown in school.
“I’m so pleased to be part of this awesomeevent,” said Rosa.
The Centeris the result of a collaboration between Principal Torres and Ritz, who donated the entirety of his Global Teacher Prize Finalist money to build this state-of-the-art facility in the heart of the poorest Congressional District in America, one of NYC’s most food insecure and health challenged neighborhoods and the largest tract of public housing in South Bronx.
Thefirst-ever such learning environment in New York City, the Center will serve theentire sc hool with an innovative curriculum and local residents with workforce development and job training programs. Its goal is to improve academic performance, health outcomes, food access and employment opportunities for kids and adults in the community.
A Place for Student Academic Achievement
The Center provides before, during and after-school programming, plus Summer camp, in addition to 25-periods of weekly instruction and 15 periods of hands-on wellness activities including aeroponic gardening and cooking.
In addition, the Center is the first-ever elementary-workforce development school program in New York City which recently grew enough vegetables indoors to feed a healthy salad to 785 students.
“The Center’s goal is to send the first cohort of CS 55 students to the Bronx High School of Science and beyond while transforming health outcomes and employmentopportunities for local residents,” said Principal Torres, adding that all work done in the laboratory is aligned to content area classroom instruction.
Already a nationally recognized facility, the program was recently invited to present at The White House for State of STEM and has hosted visitors and school administrators from around the world – all interested in replicated the Center’s indigenous programming. Later in May, a replica of the classroom will be installed at the United States Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC as part of a six-month teaching installation featuring teacher Stephen Ritz and his students giving lectures and demonstrations.
“The National Health, Wellness and LearningCenter is a place of wonder, inspiration, aspiration and 21st century engagement,” said Ritz. “We envision a world full of healthy, equitable, resilient communities where those who are ‘apart from’ will become ‘part of’ – a world where people do not have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. We also believe that healthy students are atthe heart of healthy schools, and that healthy schools are at the heart of healthy communities.”
“At the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center, we are using growing and cooking as a prism to help students understand STEM,and conversely, STEM as a way for them to learn about healthy eating andnutrition,” said Yosses, whose Kitchen Garden Laboratory is a key partner in the STEM-cooking/nutrition curriculum.
Job Training for Adults
Further,the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center offers adult workforce development training and features mobile indoor technology capableof growing food all year-round using 90% less water and less space.
At the Ceremony, Gotham Greens and PWC were introduced and named as community and development partners committed to making the South Bronx a more resilient and healthy community.
Professional Development for NYC Teachers
Inan ongoing collaboration with NYC Department of Education, the Center will also be used to train teachers in STEM / STEAM and Culinary / Urban Agriculture technologies and has site visits scheduled with NYU, Columbia and Cornell Universities. This locally-grown, locally-funded, grassroots initiative, supported by NYC Department of Education is an exemplar in the Community Schools movement in an open enrollment, public school.
New York State Schools Chancellor Dr. Betty Rosa talks with CS 55 students at the grand opening of the first-ever National Health, Wellness and Learning Center.
After preparing fresh edamame hummus and fruit smoothies, Green Bronx Machine founder Stephen Ritz, former White House Executive Pastry Chef and founder of Kitchen Garden Laboratory Bill Yosses and C.S. 55 fifth graders cheer “Si Se Puede” to celebrate the opening of the National Health, Wellness and Learning Center.