Little Friends of the High Bridge
P.S. 114 students walk on the High Bridge shortly after its opening.
Sacred Heart students celebrate the opening of the bridge with BxCM ED Carla Precht, Sonia Manzano, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.
During a special presentation by the Department of Design and Construction, MetLCS students touch part of the safety fence that was installed on the bridge.
What: A STEAM-based educational program
Who: Pre-K to 3rd grade classes (school visits) and Highbridge residents (public festivals)
When: monthly classroom visits from September-June and public festivals year round
Where: Bronx schools located in the Highbridge neighborhood
Current Funders: Con Edison, Tortuga Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, New York Yankees Foundation, Educational Foundation of America, HW Wilson Foundation, Rose M. Badgeley Residuary Charitable Trust, TD Foundation, NYC Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Partnership for Parks
Current Participants: P.S. 11, P.S. 114, Sacred Heart, Highbridge Advisory Council Family Services, Metropolitan Lighthouse Charter School, and GOLD Pre-K Center
Goals: Participants in the Little Friends of the High Bridge program will:
Understand that the Harlem River and High Bridge are located in their neighborhood and are accessible by public transportation or by walking
Be able to identify flora and fauna found at the river
Understand the connection between animals and their environment
Be able to talk about (or draw) ways in which they can protect and preserve the environment
Want to go visit the river and bridge with their family or school
The Museum’s Little Friends of the High Bridge program educates children from Pre-K to 3rd grade along with their teachers and families in Highbridge about the significance and history of the historic High Bridge and encourages them to visit and enjoy the bridge now that it’s open. Little Friends is designed to connect the people of Highbridge to the bridge for which their community is named and to the two parks that are joined by the bridge. It encourages teachers to use the story of the High Bridge as a tool to teach history and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Programming focuses on teaching local Highbridge children about the history, significance, and the beauty of the High Bridge, as well as introducing the local flora and fauna that can be found along the nearby Harlem River and the importance of water to all who use the river. The overall goal of the program is to foster a love and appreciation for this natural resource in hopes that children will be inspired to become stewards of their environment.
To date, the Museum has reached over 4,000 students and residents of the Highbridge neighborhood, and has provided professional development training to more than 200 teachers at nine schools.
The Little Friends of the High Bridge program includes:
A Story book, The Lowdown on the High Bridge, written by author and Bronx native Sonia Manzano (“Maria” from Sesame Street);
A Teacher Resource Packet (common-core aligned lesson plans and suggested activities), Fun Fact cards (a collection of picture cards detailing the flora and fauna found along the Harlem River), and literature about water, rivers, or bridges;
A Teacher Training with a Museum Early Childhood Education Specialist for Pre-K through 3rd grade teachers about the High Bridge, bridges, and water;
A visit with the Museum mobile bus exhibit, Waters On the Go!, which features a multi-sensory experience that allows children to explore their local environment through an interactive diorama of the Harlem River, the Bronx River, and the High Bridge;
A Take-Away Brochure for caregivers with basic information about the High Bridge, resources, and a map;
Monthly classroom visits from a Museum Guide, which include art activities, suitcase exhibits, guest speakers, and walking trips to the bridge.
The Museum participates in several public events in the Highbridge every year, including the Bridge Builders Back to School Fair and the District 11 Learning Fair. At these events, visitors are engaged in informal visits to the mobile exhibit and hands-on art activities related to the Harlem River and the High Bridge, such as bridge building using recycled materials and animal habitat collages.
The concept for this program was inspired by the re-opening of the historic High Bridge, which was closed to the public in the 1970s until its completed renovation in 2015. Despite the fact that the bridge played such an essential role in the history of New York City, the Museum was puzzled to learn that there were no educational programs for children about this historic landmark, and that, in fact, few residents even knew of the existence of such a bridge. Thus, the Museum created an entire educational program with residents, educators and artists in commemoration of the Bridge as a prototype of the kind of Bronx-centric history programs and exhibits it intends to create in the future.
In creating the Little Friends program, the Museum worked closely with local community-based leaders like Chauncy Young and organizations like the former Highbridge Community Life Center, WHEDCo, coalitions, schools, the New York Public Library as well as with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the Bronx County Historical Society, the NYC Department of Design and Construction, and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to offer programming, resource materials and other experiences of the bridge.
Running from the Bronx to Manhattan over the Harlem River and owned by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the High Bridge is a former aqueduct and pedestrian bridge and is the oldest standing bridge in New York City. It was closed for the past 40 years and was re-opened as a pedestrian walk and bike path on June 9th, 2015. On January 11, 2013, then Mayor Bloomberg, along with US Congressman Jose Serrano, broke ground for the restoration of the High Bridge. At the press conference the Mayor said, “the $61 million restoration of this bridge, and its reopening to pedestrians and cyclists, will also open up new opportunities for communities on both sides of the river. It will bring people here from all over the five boroughs, and even all over the world, to see some of the most spectacular views in the city.”
For more information on the Little Friends of the High Bridge program, please contact Nicole Wallace, Director of STEAM Programming.
“Saturday's High Bridge Festival was a resounding success, with happy kids, families, and local residents on both the Bronx and Manhattan sides coming out to celebrate. We wanted to say a quick thank you for your support, which made this event possible.”
― Lauren Sylvester, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
“I cannot think of anything more important than to share the historic treasures of our City with our children. It’s exciting to see children so invested in the history, and future, of their community. After all, who will be impacted more by the re-opening of the bridge, than the people who live in its neighborhood? STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) programs like the one the Bronx Children's Museum provides are so important for fostering curiosity and promoting scientific learning. I was first inspired to study engineering when I built bridges out of toothpicks as a young child. Our future architects, engineers, and scientists are sitting in Highbridge schools right now, using the High Bridge as inspiration to build their own bridges out of milk cartons and cardboard boxes. The DDC is proud to play a part in encouraging this inspiration.”― NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora
“These kids are the future stewards of the High Bridge and it is important that we inspire them to care for our City’s beautiful parks. Sonia Manzano’s new book is a wonderful, creative way to educate young New Yorkers about the fascinating history of the High Bridge, and we are grateful to her and the Bronx Children Museum for all of the enriching work they do in this community.”― Commissioner of NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Mitchell J. Silver
“Breathing life back into the High Bridge, New York City’s oldest standing bridge, is something I welcome and support; it has become a hidden treasure in my district over the past 40 years due to its closure,” said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner. “As we recount its story – thanks to Bronx Children’s Museum and Sonia Manzano – we can relive its ups and downs, and now, its rebirth as a vital part of the Bronx. I commend the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and New York City Department of Design and Construction for their efforts to bring back the High Bridge, restoring its place as a major attraction for not only my district’s families and residents, but all New Yorkers.”