Green Girls, a program of the City Parks Foundation, is attempting to inspire adolescent girls through the use of technology, experiments and interactive games.
Led by Kaari Casey, lead educator for OST Middle School Programs at City Parks Foundation, the group of middle school students are currently learning about the waterways in Queens, such as Newtown Creek and Hallets Cove.
They have been gathering at Green Girl's home base, I.S. 204 in Long Island City, to test various water samples.
The group conducted ph, nitrates and phosphates tests on the water samples to determine what location the samples originated from. Prior to the experiment, Casey gave an interactive lesson showcasing watersheds, as well as the effects of pollution and build-up on various types of topography.
The environmentally focused organization typically teaches its students about the city’s natural and cultural resources through service learning trips and research projects.
The afterschool program features students who have been attending the program for two to three years, as well as students who joined as recently as three weeks ago.
For each group of four or five middle school students, there is one high school intern to assist them with weekly activities. The high school interns are hands-on with the younger students, often designing lesson plans and teaching during the weekly meetings.
“One of the great things about the program is that it’s a pipeline development,” Casey said. “The girls can participate from sixth to eighth grade, and after eighth grade they could become a junior mentor for a year, and afterwards they become paid high school interns.”
Isha Joshi, a junior in high school, has been involved with Green Girls for five years. While she is leaning towards the medical field for college, teaching her fellow Green Girls is imperative to her.
"I realize by living in the city that sustainability is important, and it’s important to teach it to younger girls,” Joshi said. “Our personal mission is to have the girls realize that science affects them, and once they realize it, they have a different perspective."
While many of the students participating in the program are from I.S. 204, there are students who travel from across the city to get involved. Erica Morales-Armstrong, an eighth-grade student from Manhattan, makes the trip to Long Island City each week.
“I love science, whether it’s doing projects for Green Girls or doing hydraulic acid tests with my class,” Morales-Armstrong said. "The first day of Green Girls, I was a bit nervous and kept to myself in a corner, but now I want to stay with them until I am an intern.
“Right now, I’m torn between becoming a marine biologist, a paleontologist and a Broadway actress,” she added.
While the afterschool program is held every Friday at I.S. 204, there is also the Green Girls Summer Institute, which assists 30 middle school students in understanding the natural ecosystems in the city through canoeing, bird watching and other activities.
“The goal of the program is not to make them all become scientists, even though we’d like to interest them in STEM careers,” Casey said. “Really a lot of them come with a fear of science at the beginning and as long as you could break that down, and have them feel comfortable doing science, that’s a success."