Common Ground Receives EPA Support

Common Ground Photo The following was sent by Joel Tolman, Teaching Our Cities project director and director of impact and engagement at Common Ground High School.

“Fueled by a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, New Haven’s Common Ground High School has launched Teaching Our Cities—a new project that will help urban public high schools grow a new, diverse generation of community and environmental leaders. Today, Common Ground announced five other public high schools from across the Northeast United States who will join in a year-long effort to share best practices and improve their schools:

At Boston Green Academy, every student is challenged to pass a series of “Green Milestones” on their way to high school graduation—for instance, giving Green Talks to schools and adults on a community environmental issue about which they care deeply.

The campus of Connecticut River Academy is true to its name: located in Hartford on the banks for the Connecticut River, the school immerses students in water quality testing, river cleanups, and environmental justice questions related to urban waters.

Visiting the Greene School in Rhode Island, you see more trees than people—but nearly half of the school’s students live in cities, so the school is creating learning expeditions out into these cities. Seniors, for instance, collect data on the abundance of amenities and burdens in industrial areas, and write reports about the environmental and social impacts of industry on urban communities. 

Located in a in repurposed historic 19th century hotel in downtown Ithaca, New York, New Roots Charter School is part of the fabric of that small city. Inspired by the ecological restoration traditions of the native Haudenosaunee people, students and staff from New Roots are replanting native species at Cayuga Lake to the north of their campus.

At Two Rivers Magnet School in Hartford, students in Environmental Law explore environmental justice and advocacy—including a case study of the former Colt industrial complex, nearby their campus.

Late last month, students, teachers, and educators from these six schools—all of which teach city students, and all of which take the environment, sustainability, and social justice as their organizing focus—gathered at Common Ground for the first of six face-to-face workshops between now and next October.

Over the next year, Common Ground and the other Teaching Our Cities schools will create videos, write blog posts, and publish toolkits that will help other urban public high schools learn from their experiences. These tools and resources will be published at www.teachcity.org, a new web site that launched this week.

Just as they share common practices, these schools also face common challenges. How do these schools build beyond-the-school learning and leadership experiences into every student’s experience? How does “teaching our cities” look different in 9th grade than it does senior year? How do they build the capacity of teachers who don’t live in these cities to engage the students who call them home? Each partner school has identified their biggest challenge for the coming year, and will work with the other Teaching Our Cities schools to find solutions.

To support this documentation and capacity work, each partner school will receive a mini-grant of just less than $5,000, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s support of Common Ground and Teaching Our Cities.

“This organization is doing just the kind of work that is so important for the future of New England’s environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “Projects that introduce youth, educators and communities to the problems and the possibilities of environmental protection and climate adaptation are bound to help us build a stronger, healthier world.”


Teaching Our Cities is funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement number 00A00115 to Common Ground High School. However, it may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.”

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