Shakira Provasoli, of New York City, and a former Cony High School student, was awarded the Presidential Innovation Award for environmental education by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 16 at a ceremony at the White House, according to a news release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Provasoli was one of 18 teachers and 63 students from across the country who were recognized by the EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality for their contributions to environmental education and stewardship.

These 2015 winners and honorable mentions for the annual President’s Environmental Youth Award and 2015/16 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators were honored for their work at a ceremony, according to the release.

Provasoli has been a kindergarten through 12th-grade educator in New York City for 16 years. Over the past five years, she developed a curriculum centered on her school’s hydroponic rooftop greenhouse that incorporates the New York City Science Scope and Sequence.

Instead of covering compartmentalized topics or lessons, she uses long-term projects to let students delve into topics and generate in-depth knowledge, according to the release.

Curriculum topics include systems and cycles, environmental interaction, sustainable solutions, and sustainable cities. Each year, kindergarten through fifth-grade students revisit the same curriculum topics or themes using different subject matter; each subsequent year requires more initiative and involvement from the students.

In kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, Provasoli reads to students about subject matter selected by the entire class. In the second grade and beyond, groups of students identify a problem and she teaches them how to use books, Internet articles, and interviews to conduct research.

Students then work together to brainstorm multiple solutions to the problem and present their solutions using posters, videos, public service announcements, letters, models, songs, plays or board games.

Her fourth-grade classes collaborate to build hydroponic systems from an air pump, bike needles, plastic tubing and water bottles, with each student tasked to help with one specific part of the construction. Students then test the effect of water pollution on the growth of plants. Provasoli emphasizes both individual achievement and collaboration among students.

Provasoli extends her teaching scope outside of the kindergarten through fifth-grade classroom, as well. She taught a 36-hour Water, Energy, and Waste: Integrating Themes of Sustainability into Your Classroom course for the After School Professional Development Program. She also taught a hydroponics workshop at the Environmental Study Center in New York City.

She currently offers workshops to teachers to help with management, operations and curriculum for greenhouses at their respective schools.

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