In 2004 Dr Ted Caplow founded New York Sun Works and created the Science Barge; a floating, sustainable urban farm located on the Hudson River. It was the first demonstration of a high-yield, commercial-grade urban food production facility which was powered by wind and solar energy, heated with vegetable oil, and irrigated by rainwater.
Inspired by The Science Barge, The Greenhouse Project was started in 2008 by a small group of public school educators and parents, led by project co-founders Sidsel Robards and Manuela Zamora. Concerned about the inadequacies of environmental science education within NYC’s public school system, they partnered with NY Sun Works to create an innovative new approach to science learning. This would become The Greenhouse Project, an in-school hydroponic greenhouse classroom, where students could learn the mandated science curriculum in a hands-on, experiential way while growing nutritious vegetables and herbs to share with their school community and families.
The first hydroponic classroom opened in 2010 at PS 333 in Manhattan. The success of this first initiative as a way to teach science and empower students to make educated choices about their impact on the environment, spurred demand for the program in public schools across the five boroughs of NYC and northern NJ. Ten years later, in 2020, we reached the milestone of 170 schools, 10% of all NYC public schools — the largest school system in the country!
Moving now into our second decade, we’re continuing to innovate and grow. In response to the COVID pandemic, we created Home Hydroponic Kits for our students and teachers to facilitate hands-on science learning from home and delivered 12,500 kits in the 2020-21 school year! We also launched a fully-remote K-12th grade curriculum to support blended learning, and converted many of our labs to full indoor farms, providing much-needed produce for school communities and local food pantries to alleviate food insecurity during the pandemic.
In 2022, we expanded our program offerings with the launch of our High School workforce development program in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Farming Certification Program. Developed with funding support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program is the first of its kind in NYC and responds to the pressing need for youth workforce development as well as to the need to build a pipeline of skilled workers in indoor farming, a growing sector of NYC’s sustainable economy. The program piloted in three high schools in Summer 2022, with 32 students completing the 6-week summer intensive. The program is now also being offered as an in-school science elective. And we’re continuing to grow our hydroponic STEM program – building hydroponic classrooms at 70 more schools in 2023!
To learn more about our programs and how you can bring a lab to your school, contact us.
“This cutting edge initiative takes a hands-on approach to teaching the next generation critical issues of environmental sustainability, and is a very smart investment in the future.”
—Ashok Gupta, Natural Resources Defense Council