Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

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The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (Harbor School) is a small, public high school, created in 2003 through the New York City Department of Education’s New Century High Schools Initiative, with a four-year New Visions for Public Schools implementation grant from the Gates Foundation, Open Society Foundation, and Carnegie Foundation. As a public school, Harbor School is funded by the city and state, but also relies on significant annual funding from the Billion Oyster Project to support its students through all of the waterfront, career & technical educational programs, and summer and afterschool programs.

The Harbor School was borne of the belief that New York City youth, the natural resources of New York Harbor, and the New York metropolitan community collectively formed an untapped potential for excellence in secondary public education. The challenge was bringing those resources to the students in the classroom, and extending the classroom to include those resources through a system that meets all state standards. The success of this educational model relied on four principles: 1) that the marine world provides an ideal forum for education based on excellence, discipline and interdependence; 2) that hands-on, inquiry-based learning in a natural environment stimulates students’ curiosity and leads to improved engagement and academic performance; 3) that given the right environment and expectations, the students from the districts this school served have within themselves the desire and intellect to reach the highest academic standards; and 4) that small schools with increased personalization and alternative assessment systems create an environment more conducive to learning, graduation and, ultimately, successful, productive lives.

The Harbor School started with a faculty of 8, along with founding Principal Nathan Dudley, Co-founder Murray Fisher, and 125 students on the 4th floor of the former Bushwick High School in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The school moved to Governors Island in 2010 into a renovated former Coast Guard hospital.  In 2013, after a five year capital campaign, Harbor School expanded to include a new waterfront Marine Affairs, Science and Technology (MAST) Center.

Thanks to the vision and dedication of the founding partners, teachers, and funders, today the school is thriving and now educates over 500 students. As sophomores, students at Harbor School select one of seven Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs: Aquaculture,  Marine Biology and Research, Marine Systems Technology, Marine Policy and Advocacy, Ocean Engineering, Professional Diving, and Vessel Operations. These hands-on programs qualify them to graduate with relevant certifications in marine science and technology fields, which include an array of work-based learning experiences that extend students’ education from the classroom into the real world. Many graduates go on to 2 or 4 year colleges, and others transition directly into jobs in the New York Harbor and beyond.

Harbor School continues to have a stellar teaching staff with many of the current faculty holding various awards.  The UFT has recognized Harbor School with its 2017 Academic High School Team Award and also recognized CTE teachers Brendan Malone, Rick Lee and Randall Dennis as teachers of the year.   Brendan also received a $100,000 award in the National Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program in 2017.  The DOE honored CTE teacher Mauricio Gonzalez with the Big Apple Award in 2018 - the highest award a teacher can get in NYC.  

Billion Oyster Project

Billion Oyster Project was born in 2010 at Harbor School, is still based at Harbor School, and relies on the entire Harbor School community to help achieve its mission: Restoring oyster reefs by and for all communities surrounding New York Harbor. Billion Oyster project is pleased to host this celebration.

The mission of the Billion Oyster Project is to restore oyster reefs to NY Harbor through public education initiatives. Founded on the belief that restoration without education is temporary, and observing that learning outcomes improve when students have the opportunity to work on real restoration projects, collaborating with public schools is fundamental to Billion Oyster Project’s work. Billion Oyster Project designs STEM curriculum through the lens of oyster restoration for New York City schools, engages The Urban Assembly New York Harbor students in large-scale restoration projects, collects discarded oyster shells from 75 New York City restaurants, and engages thousands of volunteers. The project has planted 28 million oysters and installed 12 reef sites so far, with 6,000+ students and 9,000+ volunteers.