As the students in Alycia Zimmerman’s third grade class stream back into PS 33 after recess, their huge grins and happy chatter bring an old nursery rhyme to mind. Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed! There will be no head-breaking at PS 33, though. Instead, ioby project leader Jessica Shreefter, an instructor from the green energy, arts and education nonprofit Solar One, plans to channel the children’s raucous behavior into electric power. On two bicycle blenders, these third graders will turn tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes from the New York City school’s organic garden into nutritious, delicious smoothies.
A Green Design Lab™ Project from Solar One
Bicycle blenders are just what they sound like: A blender, attached to a stationary bicycle, is powered by a small generator that runs when somebody pedals. The bikes also have a light bulb attachment, helping students to see how much more energy is needed to power a conventional bulb than an energy-efficient one. These bikes smartly use things that kids in grades K-4 already love – bicycles and yummy snacks – to teach powerful (pun intended!) lessons about nutrition, alternative energy, conservation and sustainability.
“Instead of electricity, we’ll be using human power – like, pedal power,” nine-year-old Catherine tells ioby proudly. “We want to make the Earth a healthier place, and not use fossil fuels like coal and oil.”
“These machines will give the children an understanding of what it means to produce electricity without burning fossil fuels, as well as larger scale ideas like making healthier food choices and fighting childhood obesity,” Jessica explains. “The earlier a child is exposed to an idea, the easier it is to drive the important messages home.”
Ms. Zimmerman’s class proves that the students at PS 33 have already embraced vocabulary and concepts that elude people decades older. “Instead of electricity, we’ll be using human power – like, pedal power,” nine-year-old Catherine tells ioby proudly. “We want to make the Earth a healthier place, and not use fossil fuels like coal and oil.”
Another student is so excited to contribute, straining his arm in the air and tipping over at a seventy-degree angle, that he breaks Circle Time protocol entirely and speaks without being called on. “Pedal power is BETTER than electricity!” Alvin bursts out. “We’re stopping global warming!”
The bicycle blenders will complement sustainable initiatives already taking place at the school. Environmental information has been integrated into the curriculum in line with city standards, so that first graders learn to “reduce and reuse,” second graders study wind energy, and third graders tackle solar energy. The school has also updated its mission statement to reflect these new priorities, and this year’s fifth grade graduation caps and gowns will be green rather than black.
The third graders’ suggestions were more community-based: Join a CSA! Eat local! Go to a farmer’s market!
Principal Lenore Lindy embraces these changes. She believes that they will reach far beyond the brick walls of their Chelsea neighborhood school building. “Our children are ambassadors!” she says. “From energy efficient light bulbs to healthy nutrition choices, they take home everything we teach them and translate it into every language that’s represented at our school. Our students are spreading this knowledge through the community.” Pint-sized grassroots warriors who spread environmental messages block by block? ioby is in full support!
There are definite educational advantages for the children, too. When Jessica taught the school’s students about community gardening earlier this year, post-instruction survey results indicated that the students who learned the information at a younger age were better able to remember and integrate the concepts. For example, when listing five ways to make healthier choices, many sixth graders responded with variations on “drink more water” and “eat less fast food.” The third graders’ suggestions were more community-based: Join a CSA! Eat local! Go to a farmer’s market!
By turning the school’s own organic produce into smoothies, the Pedal Powered Bicycle Blenders will show the students of PS 33 that environmental lessons learned in the classroom – combined with a little leg work – will help to create the sustainable future they deserve. “We’re thrilled to do this because we want our children to imagine the impossible and make it happen,” says Principal Lindy. “It’s our job to give them the resources that support thinking outside the box, so that one day they can build their own ‘bicycles’ to solve problems.” And that’s no monkey business.
Donate here to help Ms. Zimmerman’s class get the bicycle-powered blenders that they so deserve!