Runway Green Education Collective, representing a group of New York City nonprofits, has negotiated a lease with the National Park Service to develop a $65 million experiential learning campus at the 1,300-acre Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.
The site will provide space for up to 50,000 New York City public school students annually to learn skills and mindsets focused on sustainability while earning credentials for future green careers. The collective’s organizations include the Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School, Campaign Against Hunger, New York Sun Works, Solar One, Billion Oyster Project and New York City Outward Bound Schools.
“These really exceptional partner organizations will serve hundreds of public school students and tens of thousands of kids on that campus,” said Geoffrey Roehm, the collective’s executive director.
“The campus itself really is a coalition of partners, and those partner organizations, primarily focus on supporting students on building skills and building mindsets around issues of sustainability and equity, Roehm told New York Nonprofit Media.
The Campaign Against Hunger will run a three acre farm that will focus on sustainable agriculture while also helping to feed hungry New Yorkers. New York Sun Works will help to support a greenhouse focused on hydroponic farming and supporting kids in building skills related to that. Solar One will have a solar array that will support students in building skills that will help them to enter into the solar industry. Billion Oyster Project will help support an outdoor ecological lab that will help kids build skills from marine biology to marine advocacy while also helping repopulate a billion oysters into New York Harbor. New York City Outward Bound Schools will help to operate an adventure center with rope courses to help students build skills centered around collaboration and teamwork. Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation will also help to run a public amphitheater and support arts programming within the venue.
There are also a variety of anchor tenants involved in the project and through partnership with hundreds of public schools, thousands of students will be able to experience programming on the campus and even earn badges and credentials towards a career in the green economy.
Some of the partners of the coalition are already pushing initiatives that they want to bring to the experiential learning campus.
New York Sun already runs a credentialing program focused on careers that are related to controlled environment agriculture and hydroponic farming and Solar One already runs a credentialing program based on supporting students who are interested in the solar industry or other industries related to smart grid power. Billion Oyster Project also already has programs that are related to marine biology and marine advocacy.
“Many of these organizations already bring this infrastructure so to be able to really enhance that incredible work that they’re already doing in an ecosystem campus of learning is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build out an incredibly impactful and powerful learning environment” said Roehm.
Some organizations already have programming at schools across the city. However, the experiential learning campus would allow them to come together in a significantly larger amount of space to support more students. “To be able to build an education campus and experiential learning campus on this amount of land is really unheard of in New York City so to have the opportunity to build this seven acre campus where each organization will have several acres to be able to develop infrastructure to support kids is amazing” Roehm told NYN Media.
“Any student that’s on a badging or credentialing pathway would be participating in their home school in a particular career connected curriculum and they would then be able to come to campus for multi-day experiences, a number of times throughout the semester or year to deepen the impact of that learner.” he added.
Runway Green Education Collective has for months worked closely with the New York City public schools to plan the learning campus. The effort included a site visit by Schools Chancellor David Banks in May of 2022.
“One of the chancellor’s two main initiatives is around building out authentic career connected learning pathways,” said Roehm. “And so we as an organization want to be supportive of that initiative and have an opportunity to provide career connected learning at scale in really rigorous and authentic ways that will align with New York City public school initiatives.”
Roehm expects to continue working with the Department of Education to build out the details of how schools and students will be able to access the campus once it’s up and running.
The collective has received city, state and federal funding, most notably $2 million in funding from Sen. Chuck Schumer. “We’re very appreciative to have received funding from Sen. Schumer to support the build out of the campus and we’re also appreciative to Council Member Mercedes Narcisse who’s a champion of educational equity and wants to see as many public school students as possible be able to come and access this incredible space,” Roehm told NYN Media.
“We are also thrilled to see this project included in the lease between New York City and the National Park Service that supported setting up migrant housing,” Roehm said, referring to a shelter that was erected at the field to house asylum-seekers. “That $2.5 million would be able to go to supporting the building of the campus and to create opportunities for tens of thousands of kids to participate in this incredible learning environment.”
Roehm characterized the learning campus as a once in a generation opportunity to create a project that impacts thousands of students every year. “Having this amount of space to be able to focus specifically on K-12 education is not a development project that is typical,” Roehm said. “We’re so excited to be able to bring it online and we anticipate the high school being open in 2026 and the rest of the campus being fully operational by 2028.”
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