Once again, I’m pleased to introduce a guest post by Fall Education Intern, Stephanie Krom. Stephanie is a student in the NYU Archives and Public History MA program. This semester in the Education Department, Stephanie has worked with K-12 students on school tours here at BHS and she has helped facilitate our brand new after school program that debuted at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 this fall, “Teen Innovators.” The teen innovators will show off their work at the culminating event tonight at BLDG 92, so check out Stephanie’s inside look at the work they have done along the way!
The Teen Innovators are a group of 9th graders from Benjamin Banneker High School who have been working in a six-week afterschool program at BLDG 92. The Teen Innovators program is designed to teach these students about the sustainability-centered businesses, careers, and culture at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In my capacity as a graduate intern at Brooklyn Historical Society, I have aided the Teen Innovators’ Educators, Emily Potter-Ndiaye and Tracy Cook-Person, in a few sessions of the Teen Innovators program. Working with Teen Innovators was the first time I have really worked closely with high schoolers (I am most comfortable with elementary school students). Remembering myself in 9th grade, I was nervous about how to relate to students that age. To my pleasant surprise, I had no trouble relating to the Teen Innovators and immediately fell into conversation with them about my college application experience, how I made my career choice, and why I am interested in history.
In particular, I was impressed with the way the Teen Innovators consistently made connections to the “four themes” of their program – the concepts of economics and politics, sustainability, history, and demographics. These four themes were developed by the educators in conjunction with the Teen Innovators, based in part on the main ideas that came out of initial sessions with the Teen Innovators. The four themes, therefore, connect well to the Brooklyn Navy Yard curriculum but were also of some interest to the Teen Innovators before they began their lessons at BLDG 92.
On Tuesday, November 13, I went with the Teen Innovators to Aswoon Studio, artist and welder Susan Woods’ studio in Building 131 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Like so many of the businesses at the Navy Yard, Susan’s designs incorporate recycled materials and her entire business model is focused on sustainable, responsible design. The Teen Innovators were impressed by Susan’s studio and, after a short introduction to the space and to the company, immediately jumped in to ask Susan questions about her business. The Teen Innovators came to Aswoon equipped with a worksheet that encouraged them to connect the company’s work to the four themes of the program. The Teens’ questions were right on target. The students are particularly interested in sustainability, which was illustrated in the questions they asked Susan about where she sources her materials from, whether she re-uses materials from old projects, and whether her materials are local. The Teen Innovators were also interested to know whether Susan donates her art to good causes and gives back to the community. In addition, the Teen Innovators were quick to connect Susan’s company to the larger history of Brooklyn Navy Yard – they remembered the pictures they have seen of women during World War II coming to work at the Navy Yard wearing pants, some holding welding gear. As a successful female welder, Susan Woods is, in many ways, their modern-day counterpart in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
In addition to the four themes, the Teen Innovators are very interested in careers and the process through which people make career choices. The Teens asked Susan, just as they ask every professional they meet through the program, about how she made the choice to pursue a career as an artist/welder. In particular, they are interested in whether the career people thought they would have when they were in high school is the same as the career they ended up having. Like Susan and many other professionals at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, these kids are dreaming big from a young age. If they continue the curiosity and excitement about learning that they have demonstrated during their time at BLDG 92, it seems that there is no reason all of the Teen Innovators can’t also become the owners of successful companies in the Brooklyn Navy Yard one day.