Community Improvement Project unveils its newly renovated science classroom

Typically on Monday evenings, the hallways of Harbor Science & Arts Charter School are calm and quiet after children and teachers return home after a busy school day. However, on the evening of May 15, the hallways echoed with whispers, laughter and energetic chatter from students and faculty as they anxiously waited to see their new renovated science classroom.

Since its inception in 2012, the New York Junior League’s Community Improvement Project (CIP) Committee has renovated a variety of educational centers and community buildings throughout New York’s underserved communities. CIP is one of four community committees that are part of the City Impact Council at the NYJL. The City Impact Council tackles large scale signature projects including CIP and the Playground Improvement Project, as well as episodic volunteer opportunities under the Done In a Day and Done in Day On Demand Committee.

When the RFP from Harbor Science & Arts Charter School was reviewed by Council Head, Liz Fabsits Pavone and CIP Co-Chairs Terry Pope and Caroline Harrison recognized a very special opportunity for the Harlem school. Opened in 2000, Harbor Science & Arts is the third oldest operating charter school in NYC and serves 255 students per year across grades K-8.  Its mission is to provide high quality education through a rigorous academic program, infusing character building, physical wellness and the arts.

However, the middle school Life Sciences classroom needed drastic improvements. The floor had experienced significant wear and tear; books and science equipment were piling up in the corners of the room; paint was peeling from the walls and ceiling. CIP committee members knew it was time to get the students excited about Science again by implementing a fresh new look and creating an engaging learning environment.

Photo: The original Harbor Charter Life Science classroom prior to renovation.

Enter designer, Casey DeBois, of DeBois Design, who developed an inspiring vision that included new flooring, innovative storage, and a contemporary color palate, combined with advanced equipment and educational tools that made learning fun again!

“I feel very fortunate to have been asked by the Harbor Science and Arts Charter School and New York Junior League to participate again this year – it was such a rewarding project for me,” states DeBois. “I truly believe that your surroundings affect your well being and productivity so it was important to me to create a space the students can thrive in.”

After a year of planning for the design and renovation, volunteers from CIP and the NYJL contributed their time and renovation skills during six work days throughout March, April and May to transform the science classroom into a vital learning environment for the scholars served by Harbor Charter and its programs. “The final product truly captures the design and the shared vision that Casey and the school had for the space. I am so impressed at the remarkable work and dedication of the CIP Co-Chairs and committee to bring this project to fruition. It was truly a labor of love and it was amazing to see all the smiling faces of the students and faculty of Harbor Science and Arts Charter School at the unveiling”, added Liz Fabsits Pavone.

Photo: The new Harbor Charter Life Sciences classroom after six weeks of renovations

The culmination of both Casey and the CIP committee’s hard work was revealed on Monday, May 15 at 6:30 pm. The celebration included a ribbon cutting ceremony with NYJL President Suzanne Manning, City Impact Council Head Liz Fabsits Pavone, and key members of the Harbor Science & Arts Charter School including Principal Mr. Mark Johnson. Science laboratory demonstrations from students of Ms. Merrick’s 7th and 8th grade science classes headlined the celebration and include educational lessons on earth science, robotics and coding.

Photo: Ms. Merrick and students, dressed in their new lab coats, enjoy their first day in their new classroom

“The gift of a modern, state-of-the art science lab provides our students with the opportunity for an educational experience that will enable us to truly live up to our name as a school that emphasizes science and afford us the ability to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) instruction,” Principal Mark Johnson said. “The students can now engage in critical thinking and problem solving strategies that will be vital to their success and well-being as productive citizens in this rapidly changing 21st century environment.”

Johnson adds, “Words will never be able to express how humbled and grateful our school community is for this extraordinary gift, but more importantly for the relationship that grew between our two organizations as a result! We look forward to partnering with the NYJL in future endeavors, and our school community welcomes the NYJL’s members to our Harbor Charter School family!”

The CIP Committee warmly thanks the League and its members who contributed their time and donations to support the growth and education of Harbor Science & Arts Charter School scholars and their community.

Strengthening the families of the greater New York area.

The New York Junior League is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

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