Why is Rochester River Charter School needed?
The Rochester River Charter School takes as its model the New York Harbor School in New York City. Former President Bill Clinton recently spoke at the annual benefit of this high school. Clinton stated,
I love this school, for a bunch of personal reasons. The Harbor School embodies the public interest.... It illustrates better than any speech ever could that intelligence is evenly divided but opportunity is not…. This School has taken students without regard to what world they're living in or what their background is and given them a chance to learn and to do. As a result they are learning more and doing good.
Regarding his experience with the Southeast Asia tsunami recovery efforts:
Nothing we did there matched in innovation and potential impact that can be done everywhere in the world this (Harbor School) oyster project.
So here we are with all these kids that if they’d been caught up in the way the school system works and their families’ economic challenges and other things, ten years ago, a lot of us would have been dropping out of high school, doing the best they could, trying to help their families keep body and soul together and here they are doing something that literally is playing a major role in saving the planet and they’re doing it when they’re teenagers.
I thank Murray Fisher [Founder and Program Director] for honoring the purpose of Governors Island. For proving that all of our kids can learn and learn in ways that involve doing, so that they become both more employable and more educable, if they want to go to college. And I thank you for doing more than your fair share to save the planet from the ravages of climate change and showing the world that they can do the same thing.
This is really, really important. This is what we should be doing. Every coastal city in the world should have a school just like this. [emphasis added.]
Rochester is a Genesee River city, a Port of Rochester city, an Erie Canal city, and a lake city (and Finger Lakes city). Rochester is a wonderful place to emphasize the importance of these comments.
No one can deny that the Rochester City School District needs a new school that can make the best use of Rochester’s natural and human-built environments, and its assets and legacy, while preparing students for a present and future world of resource scarcity, continued global climate change, and ongoing dialogue, discussion, and debate regarding environmental issues. For, as environmentalist David Orr once wrote, “However conceived, described, or analyzed, sustainability is the issue of our time, all others being subordinate to the global conversation now under way about whether, how, and under what terms the human experiment will continue.”
What makes Rochester River Charter School unique?
There are various components that make the Rochester River Charter School unique. One of those components is the school’s grounding in humane education, which will teach the students to have compassion and respect for animals, the environment, humans, and Earth. This component is needed in Rochester to decrease the amount of violence between young people, which can lead to other peaceful movements. Other aspects of humane education that will make RRS a unique space will be the environment and animals. These two components will teach students to care about the space in which they live and will also make them aware of what they are doing to make the City of Rochester a better place. Project-based learning is another component that will make the Rochester River Charter School unique. By project based learning, we mean that we will utilize the City of Rochester and its beautiful resources as a classroom to keep the students engaged and committed through various projects, which include the billion bugs project, a sturgeon and salmon restoration project, boat building and restoration, hydroponics and gardening, and bike and build, which will teach the students about the history of their community and will also allow them to make changes in their community as they learn a new set of skills, along with the traditional math, reading, and writing, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).
A culture of respect and creativity will be fostered among the teachers and administrators, as well as for the students. The Rochester River Charter School has as an aim the desire to alleviate the realities of “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Getting students out into nature is indeed a large goal, as well as establishing strong, healthy relationships with other humans, non-human animals, and the Earth. This school will not ignore Indigenous knowledge and as a result will not expel students, nor promote traditional and oftentimes ineffective in-school suspension (ISS) programs.
Lastly, weekly and sometimes daily mindfulness programs and staff meetings that use talking circles and restorative justice, for example, will be instituted within the school. A quiet and reflective space will be built to accommodate such activities. Radical inclusivity will be the driving force behind the establishment of such programs at the Rochester River Charter School. All religious and ethical viewpoints will be accepted at Rochester River Charter School.