ESSYI: An Exemplary STEM program

December 19, 2014

Welcome back to our STEM Series:  Recognizing STEM Exemplars.  In this series we are highlighting summer programs that offer engaging, exciting and empowering STEM programming for students in our area.   Read more about the STEM Exemplar program here.   This installment focuses on the Environmental Studies Summer Youth Insitute (ESSYI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.


The Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute (ESSYI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) is a two-week, college-level, interdisciplinary, academic enrichment program for talented high-school students from around the world. ESSYI attracts students from a variety of settings across the U.S. and in recent years has had students from Spain, South Africa, Columbia, Greece, France, China, Senegal and Korea. The program introduces students to pressing environmental issues from a wide variety of disciplines. Toward this end, the ESSYI utilizes tools, techniques and technologies found throughout Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and helps students understand that successful solutions to environmental issues will not come from a single field. The central goal of the program is to empower students with the confidence to change the world and to help them visualize possible career paths.  Students leave the institute with a better understanding of themselves, the environment, their academic opportunities in college, and potential career aspirations. Those who perform well in the program also receive college credit.

Outdoor learning is a key component of the EYYSI program

Outdoor learning is a key component of the EYYSI program

Throughout the ESSYI, STEM disciplines perspectives are integrated as the foundation for exploring environmental problems. Students conduct scientific research on the HWS Scandling (a 65-foot research vessel on Seneca Lake), in streams, quaking bogs, in the Adirondack Mountains, and in the Colleges’ science laboratories.  Participants explore the ways in which quantitative data can be used to monitor changes in the environment and discuss the how STEM disciplines serve as the backbone for understanding environmental issues. In order to investigate our surroundings from multiple perspectives – and develop tools for understanding our relationship to the environment – students engage with STEM partnership organizations (such as the SUNY Adirondack Ecological Center and the and Adirondack Interpretive Centers) and are exposed to a wide variety of regional expertise. This type of engagement also includes travel to a local landfill (a repository for many communities throughout New York State) and a trip to an organic farm that participates in community-supported agriculture. Students examine the complexity of environmental issues from ethical and philosophical perspectives through the investigation of sustainable options that consider geographic location, economic status, materialistic necessity, and political stakeholders. Students explore specific examples of how environmental issues have been dealt with in the past and learn to use multiple ‘STEM lenses’ to develop sustainable solutions for the future. The program culminates with a four-day trip to the Adirondack Park where students use their newly acquired skills to work collaboratively and address a specific environmental challenge.

In an effort to engage students from under-represented populations, ESSYI routinely partners with both private and non-profit organizations to provide high-achieving students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds with tuition scholarships. These organizations include the HWS Finger Lakes Institute, New Jersey SEEDS, Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, The Kent Cook Foundation, The Schuler Scholar Program and Christodora, Inc.

Students explore Seneca Lake aboard the HWS William F. Scandling

Students explore Seneca Lake aboard the HWS William F. Scandling

ESSYI is unique among summer pre-college programs in that its focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues and the complexity of potential solutions through a varied STEM curriculum. By connecting students with over 15 college faculty from a myriad of disciplines (within the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts), ESSYI empowers students in ways that catalyze real personal growth. Students find specific topics, sessions and ideas that resonate with them individually. At the same time, they are exposed to other ideas and ways of thinking about environmental issues that broaden their perceptions collaboratively. Environmental problem solving is rocket science and ESSYI is an excellent first step towards a sustainable future.

For many ESSYI students, scholarships have played a significant part in their ability to attend the program. Click here for more information on ESSYI scholarship opportunities.

For more information, visit the program’s website or fill out a request for information.

Brad Muise is the Associate Director at ESSYI and is responsible for the logistics of the program.  He has a varied-background in several environmental health disciplines for both academia and industry. 

Industry Tour Series: Renewable Rochester

October 20, 2014

Welcome back to our STEM Series:  Summer Teaching Institute Industry Tours.  In this series we are highlighting the local industries that welcomed our Summer Institute participants this summer.  Read more about the Summer Institute here.   This installment focuses on Renewable Rochester.


Renewable Rochester is a local business that provides solar energy for businesses, private homes, farms and schools.  It’s building complex in Webster is powered by hundreds of solar panels.  The building complex also includes “Vital Signs” and “Scott’s Auto Fix-It” that reap the rewards of the solar panels.  Scott (of Scott’s Fix-It) has seen approximately 50% reduction in their large electric bill.

The Renewable Energy Trailer.  Part of Renewable Rochester’s solar schools program

The Renewable Energy Trailer. Part of Renewable Rochester’s solar schools program

Renewable Rochester also provides portable solar energy kits of varying sizes for classrooms. They are also working with BOCES to create kits that can be loaned out to participating districts. Solar products are on hand and can also be custom designed according to need.  Real time solar data is available on their website.

Educators interested in more information about Renewable Rochester and the programs they offer can visit their website, contact Shawn Lessord by email, or call the office at 585-671-1301

Patti Saucke is a teacher at Churchville Chili Central School District.   She participated in the Summer STEM Teaching Institute offered by the Finger Lakes STEM Hub.

Industry Tour Series: VanLare wastewater treatment plant

September 8, 2014

Welcome back to our STEM Series:  Summer Teaching Institute Industry Tours.  In this series we are highlighting the local industries that welcomed our Summer Institute participants this summer.  Read more about the Summer Institute here.  This installment focuses on the VanLare Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The VanLare wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) is one of two WWTF’s in Monroe County and is the site responsible for treating the majority of the wastewater from Monroe County and surrounding areas. One big takeaway is the immediate need for trained operators. This is a great career option for students who are willing to work hard and get their hands dirty! Much of the current workforce entered back in the 1970s with the Clean Water Act, and they are nearing retirement.

Van Lare Wastewater Treatment Facility Photo by Democrat & Chronicle

Van Lare Wastewater Treatment Facility
Photo by: Democrat & Chronicle

People that are interested in this career field can enter with varying levels of education. The company provides licensing training to all employees. Another key takeaway is that there needs to be more education for the public about wastewater. They are very enthusiastic about having groups come to the facility for tours or having employees go to schools (or any other community organization). They were very supportive of providing us with any resources we would find helpful with creating lesson plans/projects for our classroom.

For more information, please contact the Monroe County Department of Environmental Services.

Gwen Scibienski teaches math at Pittsford Mendon High School. Caitlin Ullock teaches biology at Pittsford Mendon High School.  Both teachers participated in the Summer STEM Teaching Institute offered by the Finger Lakes STEM Hub.

Get your crazy, cool green on at the 9th annual Cool Kids! ECOFEST!

April 10, 2014

EVERY one of us is a steward of this planet we share!

A small list of what there is to do at ECOFEST!

A small list of what there is to do at ECOFEST!

Green is a verb! Sustainability–a lifestyle! Learning is FUN!
But you don’t have to invest thousands in solar panels or grow your own organic food from heirloom seeds to “go green”! 

Cool Kids! ECOFEST–is on a mission to prove: we’re ALL green! And practicing sustainability can be a complete blast!
With over 60 exhibitors converging on the campus of Genesee Community College–both inside and out–we’re excited to bring the BEST of WNY’s green scene to families everywhere–for FREE!

Explore erosion (and get a little wet!) with Rochester Museum and Science Center; dig fossils at Penn Dixie Paleontological’s booth; shop for recycled international art gifts at One World Projects or dive into a nonstop kids arts fest with GCC’s Education Dept! But dont’ stop there—check out the live owls, exotic wildlife stage shows, Green Grab doorprize giveaways, tree seedlings to the first 250 participants, make origami helicopters, egg carton airplanes, enjoy Abbotts, yogurt samplings, the Big Bag Bash, and so much more! All FREE! 
Crafting Fun at 2013 Ecofest!

Crafting Fun at 2013 Ecofest!

Join us this weekend!

April 12, 2014
10 AM – 2 PM
Genesee Community College, Batavia NY 14020
Sponsored by: Student Activities
Free! Open to all ages!

But Cool Kids! can even make recycling a way-too-fun-win-win for all! Bring us your old bikes and bike parts, “nonfabric” furniture for re-sale (to benefit Habitat for Humanity), old sneakers, paperbacks, eyeglasses, worn American flags and inkjet cartridges to recycle! For EVERY item you recycle with us-we give you a raffle ticket! And another chance to win a brand new mountain bike or other prize!!! How cool is THAT?!
So clean house! Bring your stuff! Bring your Cool Kids! Bring your group!
Recycle! Re-learn! Have fun! Four HOURS of nonstop fun!!

And remember: EVERYBODY wins–when everybody’s part of the show! When all Cool Kids! steward the planet!!

For more info: or find us on Facebook/Cool Kids!

Steve Appleton is Director/founder of Cool Kids! since 1999. The family cultural event series’s mission is: “Everyone’s part of the show!” Cool Kids! is a quantuum leap from typical family shows—where we all watch a juggling show–clap–and leave. We pass out 600 juggling balls and have a juggling party! Everyone drums! Everyone tries science at Science Circus! Entire audiences do Adventure Yoga, Bollywood dance or make balloon animals!!  But don’t stop there! Cool Kids! also tackles big planetary issues like cultural tolerance, world hunger, environmentalism and world peace!  With kid-centric projects like Cool Kids! Ecofest! CAN-imals on Parade canned goods sculpture contests and Jump on the Cool Kids! Peace (origami crane) Chain–we actively become the solution! “We don’t like talking diversity,” says Appleton, “We do it. When everyone is included—that’s not only cool! That’s what peace feels like! What peace is!” Cool Kids! has series of free, family events in Brockport and Batavia. Since it started, it has hosted series that include over 1000 events in Corning, Rochester, and Albion NY.


New York State Encourages Schools to Go Green

January 30, 2012

Is your school community making an effort to “Go Green”?   If so, your school could now receive national recognition for its efforts!! 


The New York State education department is encouraging private and public schools to apply for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program.  This program highlights schools where staff, students, officials, and communities are working together to “Go Green”.  Applicant school’s will have to provide evidence on their efforts to save energy, reduce costs, foster health and wellness, foster environmentally sustainable learning spaces, and offer environmental education. 

 Winning schools will be recognized at an annual ceremony.  Applications must be submitted online on or before February 24, 2012.  To learn more about this program visit the New York State Green Ribbon Schools Website.

Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

December 27, 2011

Are you a teacher, or do you know an outstanding teacher, who uses innovative approaches to teach about environmental education? The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who apply innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for exploratory and integrated learning.

As discussed in the “America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations” report, in order to make environmental stewardship and conservation relevant to young Americans, environmental and place-based, experiential learning must be integrated into school curricula and facilities across the country.

This program recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students.

“This awards program will highlight and encourage innovative ways to getter integrate environmental issues into our young people’s everyday learning experiences—helping to turn environmental education into environmental action,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

Two teachers from each of EPA’s 10 regional offices will be selected to receive this award.  Visit EPA’s teacher award website at

Applications for the PIAEE are due on January 31, 2012.

The Captain Planet Foundation Educational Grants

March 3, 2010


The Captain Planet Foundation is an organization that supports hands-on environmentally themed projects for youth in grades K-12. Their objective is to encourage innovative science activities and to empower children from around the world to become environmental stewards. The Captain Planet Foundation strives to teach students appreciation  for our planet by becoming become active participants in environmental conservation.

Grants are available from The Captain Planet Foundation to schools and non-profit organizations that support students ages 6 – 18. The grants provide opportunities for students to learn about environmental issues and hone their creative problem solving skills  in the process. In order to be considered for the grants, proposals must:

• Promote understanding of environmental issues
• Focus on hands-on involvement
• Involve children and young adults 6-18 (elementary through high school)
• Promote interaction and cooperation within the group
• Help young people develop planning and problem solving skills
• Include adult supervision
• Commit to follow-up communication with the Foundation (specific requirements are explained once the grant has been awarded)

The deadline for the foundation’s next grant is  March 31, 2010. Other grant deadlines are June 30, 2010;  September 30, 2010, and December 31, 2010. The range of grants is $250-$2,500.  For more information please visit the grants page of The Captain Planet Foundation.