Cityside Project Series: Combining Art and Environmental Education

January 25, 2022

Students meeting to discuss their Cityside project. One student is standing by a whiteboard while three other students are seated at a table with laptop computers and drawings.
Sabrina Gonzalez ’26 (standing) and her Cityside group plan their project.

In our Cityside series, we’re sharing some of the projects throughout Providence that Wheeler 8th-graders are working on with various NGOs, non-profit organizations, community groups, and branches of government. In this story, we’re spotlighting the partnership between one of our Cityside student groups and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC), which creates positive environmental, social, and economic change by revitalizing the Woonasquatucket River, its Greenway, and its communities.

“My groupmates and I are very passionate about the environment and public art,” says Sabrina Gonzalez ’26. “For our project, we decided to combine our two interests. An exciting and unexpected surprise idea came from our community partner. They suggested we teach students from a local school about the environment. Our original plan was to paint murals about the environment which would be displayed in a public park. But, my groupmates and I were thrilled that our community partner suggested that we take it a step further and teach students about our topic.”

8th graders meet with their community partners outside on the deck of a building. They are standing in a circle while talking, and there is another building in the background behind them.
Students meet with Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council staff to discuss their Cityside project partnership.

THE WRWC’s Amanda Peavey says collaborating with the Wheeler students has been great. “I have been impressed by the enthusiasm the students bring to their projects and am excited to see these students grow and expand their talents and interests,” she says. “We are hoping to beautify Donigian Park through educational and artistic signage that engages the community. This project focuses on the impacts of littering along with the benefits of nature for our physical and mental well-being. We hope for the students to build upon their interests, gain a multitude of skills such as technical, artistic, communication, and environmental, and have fun while doing so.”

Sabrina says she has learned a lot about the environment through the thorough research she and her 8th-grade partners have been doing for their Cityside project. “Through this class, I have developed an appreciation for research which is a skill that will definitely benefit me in high school and beyond,” she says. Sabrina also appreciates how much she has learned from the program’s faculty. “We have Cityside teachers that are amazing. They are extremely kind, will help us with anything we need, and are super knowledgeable.”

8th-graders meet with faculty member Joe Baer in the Cityside classroom. The students and faculty member are seated at a table--the faculty member's back is the camera) and there is a whiteboard with notes on the wall behind them.
The student team meets with Cityside Director Joe Baer while planning their project.

Amanda of the WRWC credits Cityside for bringing students together with the local community. “I love that the program is student-driven in which they are able to take action based on their interests,” she says. “I’m happy that this program supports students and local organizations to continue growing an engaging community.”

As she considers what’s ahead for her group’s project with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Sabrina says, “I look forward to being able to present my project to our community so it can impact the most people possible.”

Related Reading