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Jeff Mann L-R CM Diana Reyna, Jason Otano, Denise Jamison, Luis Garden Acosta, Evelyn Cruz and Richard Cherry Jeff Mann

21st Century Environmental Classroom Comes to North Brooklyn

An innovative local collaboration between the Community Environmental Center (CEC), a leader in the energy efficiency field, and community-based organization El Puente is teaching students and residents about the importance of energy efficiency and instructing them how to reduce energy consumption to help combat climate change.

The CEC EcoHouse, a traveling, energy efficient model home arrived at Middle School 50 last Friday, November 16th and will remain at the Driggs Avenue school until December 18th. Taking advantage of the facility’s visit, District 14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki and MS 50 Principal Denise Jamison are arranging weekday tours for local schools. The interactive learning center will also be open to adults to tour and learn about energy efficiency, and to attend related programs and events throughout the month.

Resembling a house on wheels (some compared its appearance to a FEMA trailer), the EcoHouse contains informational and hands-on displays about almost everything that can help a home or apartment save energy, including a heating system, a lighting display and insulation. An interactive shower demonstrates how much water a traditional showerhead uses, and how much a low-flow showerhead saves. A meter display shows how much electricity is used when one turns on a light.

The interactive experience only enhances the learning experience for the kids, said Jamison. “We know that all children can learn, but not necessarily always in the same way,” she explained. “This addresses their learning as individuals, [employing] auditory and kinesthetic [techniques]. That’s why it’s wonderful.”

El Puente’s participation is a part of their ten-year Green Light District (GLD) initiative to sustain, grow, green and celebrate Williamsburg’s Southside community.” Founder Luis Garden Acosta noted how appropriate the arrival of the learning center was, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “[It] was a wakeup call to all New Yorkers that climate change is real,” he said. “We have to do everything possible as individuals, a state, and a country to mitigate and adapt to this crisis.” Learning and implementing basic techniques to limit energy and resource waste, such as switching to energy efficient light bulbs, will go a long way towards achieving that goal, he noted. “Here’s an opportunity to come into a house, see how it works and how easy it is to get all this going in our own homes,” Acosta said. “It’s a small step, but a vital step.”

Councilmember Diana Reyna also thought Sandy provided a fitting context for the EcoHouse rollout. “In light of the unprecedented ferocity of Hurricane Sandy, addressing climate change has become of paramount importance,” said Reyna. “[This collaboration] is engaging and educating our community on the issues that will directly impact the current course of climate change – energy use and efficiency, improvements in the home to make living spaces more sustainable, and providing our youth with the knowledge they need to ensure that the environment will be protected into the future.”

The CEC EcoHouse will be open to the general public, free of charge, Monday to Friday from 3 pm to 5 pm, and on Thursday November 29, December 6 and December 13, from 3pm to 8 pm.

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