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Equitable Access to Innovative STEM Education: NY Sun Works Answers the Call

June 24, 2020

Dear Friends:

It’s hard to believe I’m writing to you in mid-June, as we wrap up a school year like no other and our third month of quarantine.  The 90 days since mid-March have passed in the blink of an eye but also feel like an eon, one in which lifetimes of inequities and vulnerabilities have been brought into stark and painful relief.  

For many of the students we serve, these inequities are their daily reality.  They live in the communities hardest hit medically and economically by COVID-19.  Many rely on school not just for education and stabilizing routines but for basics like meals and laundry.  And many also contend daily with the fears, for themselves and their loved ones, of fundamental physical safety and freedoms because of the color of their skin.  It brings to the fore the vital role of education in helping students prepare for and heal from these challenges, whether medical, environmental, or societal. 

Yet, as I reflect on these sobering realities, I also find much to be inspired by.  Scientists collaborating across the globe to develop a vaccine more quickly.  Medical professionals leaving their communities to go where they were needed most.  The dedication of teachers and administrators to keep education going, even under such challenging, never-anticipated circumstances.  

Within our diverse NY Sun Works community, so much has been achieved. Here are some of the highlights: since mid-August, we’ve added 33 new labs to city public schools and trained over 100 new teachers in hydroponics and our sustainability science curriculum.  At our Youth Conference in May, students showed us their innovative and creative best, collaborating remotely when necessary to complete their research and bringing fresh ideas to environmental challenges.  We launched a new middle school curriculum and, beginning in mid-March, we transformed our 45-hour credit course into an online program once quarantine began.  Additionally, our Curriculum and Greenhouse Support Teams created over 40 remote learning lessons and investigative projects, supporting students and teachers as they scrambled to adjust to this new reality.  Through these initiatives, we continued to provide equitable access to innovative STEM education. 

This summer, we’ll be installing hydroponic labs in 40 more schools across the city, many in historically underserved communities. Our Program Development team is working hard behind the scenes to make sure that whenever schools reopen, the labs are ready so that kids will have the opportunity to learn hands-on science, grow healthy food, and explore the importance of urban agriculture.  Regardless of whether schools reopen, many of our labs will be operating as indoor farms to provide fresh produce to the local community.  And, for as long as schools are closed, we’ll continue to create our remote sustainability science lessons, because teachers and students need our support and science is more important than ever.

From all of us at NY Sun Works, we extend our deep thanks to teachers, administrators, and school staff for all you do every day to support New York’s students and to our generous supporters for making our work possible.  To everyone, we wish you and your loved ones a healthy and safe summer.  

Manuela and the NYSW team


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