Strong enviromental studies curriculum; lots of internships and honors and college-level courses
Graduation rate for students with special needs has a ways to go
The High School for Environmental Studies (HSES) is changing for the better thanks to a renewed commitment to its environmental theme, more support for struggling students, and a nice array of elective, honors and college-level courses. The school has an impressive range of partnerships, and many students participate in internships throughout the city.
Though the highly selective Honors Academy only admits a small group of students, there are plenty of honors classes and college-level courses open to all who qualify. We met several 11th-graders in an Advanced Placement (AP) biology class who were taking a challenging load of AP and honors classes even though they weren't in the Honors Academy.
During our visit, we saw lots of engaging instruction. Many classrooms were nicely decorated and lined with student projects; students seemed relaxed and attentive. Students write essays in all subjects, not just English and history; hands-on work is commonplace too. The school received mainly top marks for instruction and environment in its most recent Quality Review.
“Teachers go out of their way to make the lessons relatable,” said a senior.
The school overhauled its guidance strategy to address complaints that there was not enough support for students who were falling behind. Guidance counselors now work with the same group of students for all four years, which helps the counselors get to know them better. Teachers serve as mentors to struggling students to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks; the staff also identifies the lowest-performing third of all incoming freshman and assigns each one of them a mentor as well.
All freshman take an Intro to Environment course that was developed in partnership with the University of Vermont and Shelbourne Farms—a nonprofit that helps schools educate about sustainable farming. All 10th-graders take an ethics course, where they examine issues from both outcome-based (what’s the best or most efficient) and duty-based (what’s the most moral) perspectives. With support from Cornell University, the school is overhauling its rooftop garden to create hydroponic and aquaponic labs.
A new video and audio production studio is being built with support from CBS. Students will develop films that focus on environmental storytelling using a curriculum developed by the Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University.
There’s a range of AP courses offered, including multiple sections of AP Environmental Science and BC Calculus. Students may earn college credit for taking courses in advanced ethics and economics, which were developed by the University of Vermont and SUNY College of Environment Science and Forestry, respectively.
An internship program targets mainly 10th-graders, though students in all grades may participate. Each year students fan out across the city, interning at places such as the New York Botanical Gardens, New York Hall of Science, the Manhattan Borough President’s office and the City Parks Foundation.
Foreign language instruction is offered in Spanish, Italian, Mandarin and French. There is a nice range of electives, sports and extracurricular activities. In a culinary arts class we observed, students were creating “mindful meals,” using food grown from sustainable farms.
Students may study theater, music and visual arts. Gym electives include yoga, weight training and dance, the latter taught by an instructor from the nearby Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
There is also a nice variety of boys and girls sports teams, as well as plenty of student-run clubs.
A full-time college counselor along with guidance counselors meet with 11th-graders multiple times during their scheduled English class to walk them through the application and financial aid process. Tenth-graders are introduced to the college process through an introductory seminar. Many graduates attend CUNY and SUNY schools, and some attend private and out-of-state colleges.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes and SETSS.
ADMISSIONS: The Honors Academy admits roughly 30 students based on a review of their grades, test scores, and records of attendance and punctuality. It typically has many more applicants than available seats. Admission to the Environmental Studies programs, which is most of the school, is based on the educational option formula, designed to ensure a mix of students of different abilities. (Laura Zingmond, May 2018)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
PhysicsNot offered in 2019-20
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Interdisciplinary program emphasizing environmental studies: the natural environment, the urban environment, and environmental ethics. Students are expected to engage in research, environmental projects and internships, and complete a senior thesis.
Mathematics and science research, work in university laboratories.
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
French, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP World History: Modern, AP Psychology, AP Calculus AB, AP Statistics, AP Environmental Science, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science Principles, AP United States History, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP Biology
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Handball, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Handball, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball
Contact & Location
444 West 56th Street
Manhattan NY 10019
Trains: , , , , to 59th St-Columbus Circle; to 50th St; , , , to 57th St
Buses: BxM2, M10, M104, M11, M12, M20, M31, M5, M50, M57, M66, M7, X1, X12, X14, X30, X42, X7, X9
This school shares a building with Independence HS
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Manhattan, NY 10019
Manhattan, NY 10019