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STEM Kit Photo Contest Winners

With the pandemic forcing our typically hands-on science students into their homes for blended/remote learning, this Fall, NY Sun Works provided at-home hydroponic STEM kits to our partner schools. The kits are designed to engage students in topics they would otherwise learn about in the Greenhouse Classrooms and enable students, with teacher guidance, to grow, study, and run investigations with plants and practice their observation and data collection skills at home.

This has been an exciting and rewarding project for the NY Sun Works team and when we first started shipping and delivering kits, we were exploring ways to see them in action with the students. So, what better way to do that than a photo contest on social media?! Once most of the kits were delivered we officially kicked off the contest. We communicated with teachers, parents and guardians and asked them to submit photos of their children with their STEM kits and plants.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. We got to hear (and see!) firsthand the genuine excitement the students felt now that they could nurture and grow plants again.

“Plants are everything,” Owais, a third-grader at PS 171 in Queens said. “Think of it; plants are paper, food, clothes, house and air. Plants provide us oxygen and without plants, we wouldn’t have clean air.”

“It’s exciting to see the seeds sprout and fun to see them grow,” said Gordon, who attends PS 176 The Ovington School in Brooklyn.

The contest ran for 6 weeks and prizes were awarded to winners chosen at random. Two grand prize winners will receive a Zero Waste Gift Basket and a Home Produce Delivery from one of our greenhouse classrooms! Other fun prizes include Melissa Clark’s new cookbook, Kid in the Kitchen, Eric Adams’ book Healthy at Last, a stainless steel lunch container, reusable food savers, a vegetable spiralizer, and an omelet maker!

              

NY Sun Works: Stories From The Greenhouse Classroom Support Team

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A New Milestone for NY Sun Works

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High School Curriculum Expansion

The NY Sun Works Discovering Sustainability Science High School curriculum consists of subject-specific labs and modules that introduce students to hydroponic farming, offer students the opportunity to design and build their own hydroponic and aquaponic systems, and connect to topics covered in life science courses such as Living Environment, AP Environmental Science, and AP Biology. The Education team is excited to announce that four new modules (Farming Foundations, Farming for a Sustainable Future, The Hydroponic Games: A Hydroponic Design Challenge, and The Aquaponic Games: An Aquaponic Design Challenge) are now available on the NY Sun Works Learning Center! Keep reading for an overview of each NEW module and descriptions of existing labs.

Farming Foundations

This module provides the intellectual and practical infrastructure for students and teachers as they embark on their mission to maintain a fully-operational hydroponic farm within the context of a science lab. This foundation unit speaks directly to the unique systems and practices found within the Greenhouse Classroom and helps students keep their farm running throughout the school year, while introducing them to hands-on investigations that can be designed and implemented in the hydroponic systems.

Farming For A Sustainable Future

This module provides students and teachers a deep dive into hydroponic and aquaponic farming and sustainability. The lessons complement the Land and Water Use Unit of the AP Environmental Science curriculum with a focus on the impacts of agricultural practices, including irrigation and pest control methods and impacts of overfishing. Students also engage with sustainability topics (impacts of urbanization) and examine their own ecological footprints on the path to discussing and determining what sustainable agriculture looks like in practice.

The Hydroponic Games: A Hydroponic Design Challenge

This module engages students in an engineering design challenge to design and build functioning hydroponic systems. Working in groups, students use the iterative design process to revise their system designs and provide constructive feedback to each other throughout the module. Students also have the opportunity to apply what they have learned about water chemistry and how hydroponic systems work to ensure their systems function and support the growth and development of multiple crops.

The Aquaponic Games: An Aquaponic Design Challenge

This module engages students in an engineering design challenge to design a functioning aquaponic system. Working in groups, students use the iterative design process to revise their system designs and provide constructive feedback to each other throughout the module. Students learn about the major threats to ocean biodiversity and have the opportunity to design and implement controlled experiments in an aquaponic system. This module also includes instructions on how to build a 10-gallon aquaponic system should an aquaponics tank not be present in the classroom.

Living Environment Labs

In this lab series, students identify how energy affects the life cycle of the plant. Students are asked to explain how energy and matter are interconnected through each phase of plant development: seed & embryo, roots & shoots, leaves & stems, and flower.

Chemistry in Hydroponics Series 1: Introduction

In this lab series, students investigate the features of hydroponic farming while practicing Chemistry Regents concepts. Each lab offers a Daily Guiding Question, Objectives, NYS Physical Setting/Chemistry Standards, Scientific Inquiry key ideas and performance indicators, notes for the teacher, and a Lab Student Page.

Chemistry in Hydroponics Series 2: Color

In this lab series, students investigate the features of hydroponic farming while practicing Chemistry Regents concepts. Each lab offers a Daily Guiding Question, Objectives, NYS Physical Setting/Chemistry Standards, Scientific Inquiry key ideas and performance indicators, notes for the teacher, and a Lab Student Page.

But that’s not all! High School teachers should be on the lookout for a new lab series (Chemistry in Hydroponics Series 3: Biochemistry) and the NY Sun Works Research Guidebook, which are currently in development and will be available on the Learning Center in the Spring of 2021.

As always, teachers should not hesitate to contact Hannah (hannah@nysunworks.org) or Elaine (Elaine@nysunworks.org) with any questions about lessons or labs.

NY Sun Works PL Series: The Power of Observation

Every November the NY Sun Works Education team hosts a professional learning session for our partner teachers. The session usually takes place in-person, in one of our Greenhouse Classrooms, surrounded by vine crops, leafy greens, and the soft bubble of the aquaponic system in the background. This year, as the DOE’s transition to full-remote learning loomed and eventually touched down, NY Sun Works took the PL to a virtual platform. Partner teachers gathered across four boroughs to share, explore and discuss “The Power of Observation” in this year’s November PL.

Teachers explored together the potential of cultivating joy, focusing on observation and its particular uses in this complicated learning landscape. We shared virtual tools to record data and present findings, as well as re-discovered the natural curiosity that is found in growing plants through the hydroponic process.  

We brainstormed ideas and shared best practices, while exploring the new curricular offerings (including NEW lessons focused on the process of germination!) and virtual tools found in the NY Sun Works Learning Center. We particularly enjoyed talking through the challenges of our not-so-simple task of fostering confidence in our Farmer Scientist students in a remote setting. 

Our three hour-long sessions flew by and we all left with a refreshed excitement for the magic of germination, a better understanding of the tools and new lessons available to us, and the inspiration to facilitate living laboratories in our students’ remote learning spaces. We also spent some time connecting with colleagues, exchanging tips and ideas, while building connections between hydroponic-veteran and first-time teachers.  

Stay tuned for a future announcement about Spring 2021 Professional Learning opportunities, and as always don’t hesitate to reach out to Hannah (hannah@nysunworks.org) or Elaine (Elaine@nysunworks.org) with any questions.

Home Hydroponic Kits: LAST CALL for FALL ORDERS

Our new Home Hydroponic Kits have been a terrific success and we only have a few more available for the fall semester.  If your school is interested in purchasing some for the fall, please sign up here by November 30:  Fall Home Hydroponic Kit Request Form

But don’t worry!  Our team will be putting together more kits in January for spring courses!  A new Spring Request form will be posted in December.  

Kits have been used in K-12th grade – primarily for at-home remote learning, but also in the classroom when students aren’t able to visit the hydroponic lab due to social distancing requirements.  Some new schools that do not yet have a greenhouse classroom have also been able to use the Kits and stand-alone curriculum, and we are excited to begin this new type of partnership.  

The NY Sun Works Home Hydroponic Kits enable students, with teacher guidance, to grow, study, and run investigations with plants from home or in the classroom. The lessons, in combination with the kits, aim to introduce students to topics they would otherwise be learning about in their Greenhouse Classrooms. The Kit and lessons are intentionally designed to create flexibility for teachers to bolster and incorporate content of the courses that are already being taught (such as Living Environment, AP Biology and AP Environmental Science at the high school level).  Each lesson is accompanied by a student-facing Google Slides presentation.

If you have any questions regarding curriculum support, please contact Hannah Jaris (hannah@nysunworks.org).

If you have any questions regarding proposals or pricing, please contact Megan Nordgrén (megan@nysunworks.org).

Wrapping Up Home Hydroponic Kit Fundraiser – Thank You for Your Support

As we wrap up our Fall Home Hydroponic Kit campaign, we’re happy to share that we’ve delivered over 4,000 kits to public schools so far, with deliveries continuing through the fall.  And, thanks to the generosity of our NY Sun Works community, we were able to provide more than 3,100 kits at no cost to schools that need financial support due to COVID-related budget cuts.  If you’d like to help support the campaign, there’s still time!  Please click here to make a contribution.

The kits have met with resounding enthusiasm from teachers and students alike. “This feels like Christmas,” said one 8th grader at PS 122 in Queens on opening her kit.  Her teacher said the classroom was buzzing as the kits were handed out with students talking about the plants they’d be growing and how they’d care for their plants.  The kits and curriculum have been a lifesaver, she also shared, bringing joy and something to look forward to each day for students that have been struggling with remote learning and being stuck at home. 

Each kit costs only $12 and is designed to engage students with STEM topics they would otherwise learn in their Greenhouse Classrooms at school.  With teacher guidance and paired with our science lessons, students have the chance to grow, study, and run investigations while growing lettuce and other edible greens from home as well as practice observation, data collection, and other critical STEM skills. 

Be sure to keep an eye out on social media and in our next newsletter for photos of kids and their projects with the kits!

November Professional Learning Opportunities

The week of November 16th, the Education team will be offering a professional learning opportunity for our Greenhouse Classroom Teachers. During the 1 hour session, The Power of Observation, we will share tools designed to encourage and support students as they practice close observations, connect to and learn about plants and sustainability, and even create living laboratories at home. These tools encourage student learning (data collection and observation) outside of class time and away from the computer, and can help teachers track student learning and engagement. We will also review the variety of resources available on the NY Sun Works Learning Center that encourage and facilitate students to practice close observation skills, collect and analyze data, design investigations, and more. NY Sun Works is honored to be able to provide teachers and students with resources to support learning about sustainability science, urban agriculture, and hydroponics during the 2020-2021 school year. 

The same session will be offered three times the week of November 16th. Please use the links below to register for the session that works best for your schedule. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Hannah Jaris (hannah@nysunworks.org).

Indoors or Outside, Growing Plants Helps Support Students’ Emotional Well-Being

In a regular year, time in our Greenhouse Classrooms doesn’t just help students build proficiency in STEM and sustainability — it also supports students in their social-emotional learning.  Now, with access to the Greenhouse Classrooms limited due to COVID and with many students learning remotely, our Home Hydroponic Kits are filling this role instead.  The Kits are designed to engage students with topics they would otherwise learn about in their Greenhouse Classrooms.  But the hydroponic kit lessons also deliberately incorporate activities to foster social-emotional well-being.  For example, each day, students are tasked with observing and tending to their plants, creating a stabilizing routine and something to look forward to each day.  The opportunity to share their progress and challenges with their classmates and teachers fosters a spirit of collaboration and curiosity as students talk about what has worked and why.  And sharing food with their family – even just a leaf or two of kale or herbs – creates a deep sense of pride and brings the whole family into the learning experience.

Whether in the Greenhouse Classrooms, at home with a plant on the windowsill, or outside in a garden plot, students gain a wealth of scientific knowledge and farming know-how from tending plants.  But just as important as academic learning are the emotional benefits that come from cultivating plants — the sense of responsibility in caring for a living, growing thing, the pride and confidence in helping it grow, and the stability that comes from a daily gardening routine.  These benefits — always important to a child’s social-emotional well-being – have become even more crucial now as students contend with the uncertainty and instability of their lives during the pandemic.

Numerous studies have confirmed what gardeners intuitively know: that gardening and growing food promote emotional well-being.  The benefits range from reducing stress and anxiety to elevating mood and alleviating depression. Among students, caring for plants has been shown to foster a sense of responsibility, accomplishment, and self-confidence; growing edible plants has the added benefit of helping students develop more healthful eating habits and a more positive relationship with food. Caring for plants is also a way for students to grow their community, as they bond with classmates over the successes and challenges of cultivating plants and share their progress and the food they’ve grown with their family and neighbors. 

All of these benefits fall within the broad category of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).  An important part of K-12th grade educational programs, SEL is the idea of supporting students in understanding and managing their emotions, building self-confidence, and learning to communicate constructively with others.  In science, SEL extends to helping students gain confidence to ask questions and explore new ideas, to know it’s okay to try and not have an idea work out as hoped, and to collaborate and build trust with their classmates.  In designing, implementing, and analyzing experiments, students find agency, confidence and a sense of control that carry over into other aspects of their academic and personal lives.

Students are contending this year with so many questions they shouldn’t have to ask: Will I get sick if I go to school? Will remote learning be enough?  Will my parents be safe in their front-line jobs?  In many of our partner schools, students face the added daily stresses of food insecurity, family members out of work, and high death counts in their communities.  As educators, we must use every tool we have to support students through this difficult time.  The chance to cultivate a plant, to experience the joy of watching it grow, to harvest and share the food they’ve grown with their families and school community, is the chance for students to build the resilience and confidence they need and deserve. 

Home Hydroponic Kit CURRICULUM Now Available

NY Sun Works previously shared information about our new Home Hydroponic Kit – designed to allow students, with teacher guidance to grow, study, and conduct experiments with plants from home or in the classroom. In addition to the Kits, we have been working on supports for our teachers to aid in teaching with the Kits. We are excited to share that the first set of lessons (including student-facing Google Slides) for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 are now available on NYSW’s Learning Center! Teachers with access to the Learning Center will find them at the top of the TEACH page, in the Home Hydroponic Kits section.

This first set of lessons do not require students to have the Kits, so can be used right away while you await your Kit delivery. These lessons aim to access prior knowledge and build excitement about growing plants at home through asking students to think about where their food comes from, plant parts, plant life cycles, data collection, and introducing hydroponic farming technology — how it works and how it allows us to grow food in urban areas.

The next set of lessons that DO require the Kits will be available NEXT WEEK, coinciding with the beginning of Kit delivery to schools. These lessons introduce students to growing plants with water and nutrients, how to track and collect data about plant growth and development, and how to care for the plants as they are growing.  If your school is still interested in requesting Home Hydroponic Kits, please go to this link: https://forms.gle/PKrYFCKXN35p5vE76

The final set of lessons will be available by the end of October and introduce extended scientific investigations that can be set up with the remaining Kit materials. Note: students will need to collect additional materials depending on the investigation (e.g., recycled single-use plastic water bottles, string, chopsticks, or cardboard).

If you have any questions regarding curriculum support, please contact Hannah Jaris (hannah@nysunworks.org).

If you have any questions regarding proposals or pricing, please contact Megan Nordgrén (megan@nysunworks.org).