Hester Street Collaborative

Hester Street Collaborative » design education

design education

HSC’s educational approach places students at the forefront of design initiatives. Providing youth in any neighborhood with the tools and opportunities to improve their physical environment is essential to developing a long-term and sustainable culture of community development. Youth learn skills and strategies to participate in public space improvement projects alongside designers and key decision-makers, allowing for authentic ownership of community change. Youth who participate in our design education process are empowered when their actions lead to direct improvements to the quality of life in their schools and neighborhoods.

Ground Up

Ground Up is a design education program that brings together architects, local artists, activists and teachers to engage public school students in a curriculum that introduces them to architecture and design concepts through hands-on, site-based workshops. Ground Up works with elementary, middle and high school students with age-appropriate materials that encourage students to view their surroundings in a new and critical way. Each Ground Up project culminates in a project that transforms a part of the school or neighborhoods’ public spaces.¬†The following three projects show what Ground Up looks like at an elementary, middle and high school:

P.S. 134

At P.S. 134, HSC works with elementary school students to¬†continuously improve the P.S. 134 Community Garden and create outdoor learning environment. Students interact with and learn from nature, and actively engage with an open green space that is part of their community’s built environment. Every year, students become gardeners, artists and designers through their work in the garden, and create hands-on projects that serve a function for the outdoor classroom space, from signage to seating to planting. Through their work, students explore topics like tree identification, food production, and sustainability. Ultimately their work makes the garden a better place for future P.S. 134 students and the surrounding neighborhood.

M.S. 131

At M.S. 131, HSC works with middle school students to create projects that invite students to learn about and explore their Chinatown and Lower East Side neighborhoods. Over a thousand students have participated in Ground Up since the program began at the school in 2002. Students have painted murals on their school building representing places in their neighborhood and have built permanent art for their local playground. Every year since 2007, students have created a month-long lantern installation celebrating the Lunar New Year in nearby Sara D. Roosevelt Park, connecting the students to their neighborhood and larger community projects.

New Design High School

At New Design High School, HSC works with students to study how land-use planning decisions have affected the way their neighborhood is shaped and how it is changing. Students work directly with community organizers and urban planners to use real neighborhood developments as case studies, such as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA), one of the largest areas of undeveloped land in Manhattan, or the Allen and Pike Street corridor, an area that is being transformed into a linear park connecting the different Lower East Side neighborhoods. Through Ground Up students are empowered to become the next generation of leaders for their community.

Growing Food at the P.S. 134 Garden

Annual M.S. 131 Lunar New Year Lantern Installation

Mall-terations temporary art installation

Citizen Designer Internship

Citizen Designer Interns join HSC in our workshop and on the ground at our Lower East Side and Chinatown project sites to make a difference in the community. Interns are high school and college students, and join HSC full time for a summer or part time during the school year.

Citizen Designer Interns investigate local public space issues and learn the fundamentals of design, all while gaining valuable work skills. Their projects have included piloting guerilla and temporary public art projects, creating HSC products like t-shirts and cards, outreach and advocacy efforts around HSC’s community design projects, and establishing and maintaining summer hours at the P.S. 134 Community Garden.

The Citizen Designer Interns are one of HSC’s most valuable resources for creativity, new ideas, and innovative approaches to our community design and education work.

Walking tour of SPURA, Final presentations, student project drawing

Adult Education

In 2015-16, HSC expanded our design education programming to include adult education. Thanks to a partnership with the Loisaida Center in the East Village, we developed a series of free screen-printing workshops for Lower East Side immigrants. Workshops reflect the LES neighborhood tradition of art activism and cultural preservation, focusing on current social justice issues like immigrant rights, climate change, cultural identity, community and difference in Latino and Asian populations.


After School Programming

Two Bridges Kids

In order to help offset the negative effects of the local microclimate on the environment, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (TBNC) was awarded a grant to build a rain garden at the Two Bridges Tower. As part of the Two Bridges Kids! after school program, students have been collecting data about the environmental factors of the immediate neighborhood surrounding the Two Bridges Tower. This data will be used to measure environmental changes to the area once the rain garden is built. During spring 2015, Hester Street Collaborative partnered with Two Bridges Kids! to create a clay animation explaining their process.