NY Sun Works Informs White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health During Preparatory Events

In September, President Joe Biden will be hosting the first White House conference on food issues in more than 50 years. NY Sun Works participated in two of the preparatory events to this conference aimed at gathering perspectives and policy recommendations from a broad array of stakeholders on strategies to end hunger, improve nutrition, reduce the prevalence of diet-related diseases, and to promote equity in the food system. Mayor Eric Adams convened the first event at Gracie Mansion in June with policymakers, industry leaders, academics and non-profit representatives. NY Sun Works Executive Director Manuela Zamora shared the organization’s work in 200 NYC schools, stressing the importance of educating our youth about food cultivation and nutrition, while increasing resilience through producing healthy vegetables in hundreds of classrooms. At a forum this week on Food Insecurity & Health in the Context of Climate Change organized by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez who represents sections of Brooklyn and Queens, NY Sun Works joined other non-profits and farmers to provide input on a comprehensive roadmap to end hunger for the upcoming White House conference. As food insecurity continues to increase locally and throughout the United States, NY Sun Works is proud to be growing the next generation of farmer scientists and making fresh food available to our partner school communities. 

A Summer of Builds

As the school year has wound down, the NY Sun Works team has worked with our partners to close up most of our hydroponic farm classrooms for the summer break. One of the many benefits of growing food hydroponically is that the growing season matches the school year, so students can grow from September all the way through June, then put their farms to rest during the long summer break. Unless there are fish involved, of course! Our Greenhouse Support Team continues to visit schools with aquaponics year-round, as well as schools that use their labs for summer programming.

But the summer is not a quiet time for the NY Sun Works Greenhouse Support Team. Instead, our team uses the summer months to install new hydroponic labs and jump-start new partnerships. Our team is on target to build as many as 30 new farm classrooms throughout the city – from the Eastchester section of the Bronx to South Richmond Hill in Queens and all the way to Coney Island in Brooklyn. Our partnerships are also growing beyond the 5 boroughs to Union City, NJ, and Chappaqua, NY.  We look forward to getting these new labs – and partnerships – growing in the fall!

John P. Holland Charter School Celebrates Official Opening of Hydroponic Classroom

On Tuesday, June 14th, NY Sun Works joined students and staff at the John P. Holland Charter School, in Woodland Park, NJ to celebrate the official opening of their NY Sun Works hydroponic classroom. The classroom is funded by a USDA Farm to School grant as well as funding from Sustainable Jersey Schools and the PSEG Foundation, and has been a source of education and exploration for students and staff members alike since it opened earlier this school year. 

“We learned that through hydroponics plants can grow without soil,” Luis Rosa, a student at John P. Holland said. “This is helpful for people who live in cities or urban areas such as Paterson.”

“Even during this year of training, the garden has allowed our community to experience the growing process from seed to table throughout the year,” said school founder Christina Scano. “In its first seven months, we harvested over 60 pounds of produce in this beautiful space.” 

With over 12 crop varieties to date, and more to come, the school’s edible garden offers hands-on knowledge of STEM concepts and inspires healthy eating habits among their students and families. So far, the school has used the garden to make and share smoothies, pesto, salad and pickles. In the fall, they are hoping to grow pumpkins.

Students Share Science Research in NY Sun Works’ 11th Annual Discovering Sustainability Science Youth Conference

On Tuesday, May 24th, students from NY Sun Works’ partner schools came together virtually to share their science and environmental research at our 11th Annual Discovering Sustainability Science Youth Conference. A total of 68 student researchers, from kindergarten to 12th grade, shared their work. These research scholars presented their independent and collaborative projects to an audience of their peers, parents, and teachers across our 200 partner schools. Congratulations to all on a job well done! 

The students presented on a range of science and sustainability topics, including how ocean acidity affects plant health, the role of photosynthetic active radiation in plant growth, and how to grow food hydroponically. They also shared what they learned through their experiences in the hydroponic classroom:

“We learned that fresh produce can help bring a community together, and show students that fresh, nutritious food is just as good,” said students from Rachel Carson High School, whose project involved creating and advertising their own farmer’s market with food grown in their hydroponic systems. Students were also enthusiastic about how their greenhouse classrooms inspire them. “I believe that every school should have a greenhouse classroom,” Akaycia from Kennedy-King Elementary shared. “There are so many priceless educational benefits!”

Making the conference happen is a tremendous team effort. We’d like to say a huge thank you to our sponsors, Con Edison, Grodan, and New York Power Authority, for their financial support, as well as to the teachers, our video production team, and the amazing NY Sun Works staff, led by Becky on our Education Team, who did the hard work behind the scenes to make this event possible! Thank you! If you were not able to join on May 24th, please watch and share the Conference below:

PS 85 Ribbon Cutting: Great Expectations for a Wonderful Farm-Classroom!

PS 85 Great Expectations in the Bronx formally opened its NY Sun Works hydroponic lab in April!  Principal Medina was joined by Executive Superintendent Erika Tobia, State Assembly Member Yudelka Tapia, and NYC Council Member Oswald Feliz’s Chief of Staff Theona Reets to cut the official ribbon and to pronounce the lab open.  Funding for the lab was provided by the COFRA Foundation, in addition to a $5,000 Department of Education Office of Sustainability grant.  

Great Expectations, an elementary school serving nearly 800 students in the Fordham section of the Bronx, is growing beautiful and fragrant lavender in their hydroponic systems that students used to decorate the classroom in addition to tomatoes, herbs, leafy greens and beautiful lettuce.   

The lab has quickly become a place of joy and exploration for the students. Shared Ms. Montero de la Cruz, the hydroponic teacher, “a lot of them have discovered they like things they never thought they’d be eating. Many of them are saying now when they take their parents to the store, they’re saying, “I want to buy some swiss chard, hey, I want to buy some kale,’ so I’m glad that they’re taking that home to their parents to share with them.”  And one excited student exclaimed, “My favorite thing about this class is getting to experience the plants up close . . .I’m looking forward to learning more this year.”
Students aren’t the only ones who are excited about what the lab has to offer. NY State Assembly Member Yudelka Tapia of the 86th District stated, “We should be doing this in every single school that we have, and I am always going to be a big supporter of these types of programs that actually teach our children early what is a way of living a good life and for the future, and making sure that they pass that through to the members of our community.”

NY Power Authority and HANAC Cornerstone Celebrate New Hydroponic Lab At Astoria Houses

Last week, youth from Astoria Houses in Queens joined with NY Sun Works, funding partner NY Power Authority, and HANAC Cornerstone, a NYC-based community services organization, to celebrate the official opening of the new hydroponic learning lab at NYCHA’s Astoria Houses. The community hydroponic lab — the first of its kind on a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) campus engages youth and community residents in urban farming, environmental justice and sustainability programming, while providing fresh, delicious produce for community residents to enjoy.

“The Astoria Houses garden is a learning lab that integrates science and sustainability into a fun program that everyone will enjoy,” said Lisa Payne Wansley, NYPA’s vice president of environmental justice. “Families will learn about cutting-edge technology through sustainable urban farming and be inspired to ask questions, investigate systems, and design solutions. Learning about STEM concepts will open up opportunities for young people and others who want to benefit from being part of New York State’s emerging clean energy economy.”

The lab is an exciting joint initiative between NY Sun Works, NYPA, and HANAC Cornerstone. NY Sun Works handled design and installation and will also provide ongoing maintenance, curriculum, and harvest support. NYPA will organize community education events while HANAC Cornerstone will manage day-to-day operations and programming. Programs will be available to both students and adults and eventually expanded to include intergenerational offerings.
NY1 News was on site for the event. You can check out the coverage and hear what young farmer-scientists have to say about growing watermelon anand other farming fun below.

Funding Partner Green Mountain Energy Sun Club Joins NY Sun Works in Celebrating the Opening of Three Hydroponic Classrooms in NYC Schools

NY Sun Works was thrilled to celebrate the official opening of three beautiful hydroponic classrooms last week at the Brooklyn Urban Garden School (BUGS) middle school, PS 333 Longwood Academy of Discovery (serving K-5th grade students in the South Bronx), and the South Bronx Early College Academy (SBECA) middle school. All three labs were funded by Sun Club, the charitable arm of renewable energy provider Green Mountain Energy

“The Sun Club aims to raise awareness on the importance and benefits of sustainable practices,” said Mark Parsons, Green Mountain Energy vice president.

“These projects allow us to work with NY Sun Works to educate children on integrating environmentally conscious, accessible, and practical elements into their everyday lives.”

Sun Club Program Manager Johnny Richardson traveled up from Green Mountain Energy’s Houston headquarters to celebrate the ribbon cuttings with students, school staff, and parents. Also joining the celebrations were City Council Member Rafael Salamanca and a representative from the office of NYS Senator Luis Sepulveda at Longwood Academy, and policy advisor Evan Burr from the Office of the Mayor along with a representative from City Council Member Alexa Avilés for the BUGS opening. 

At all three events, students enthusiastically introduced their guests to the hydroponic systems, explaining how the systems work, the types of produce they grow, and what they love about growing food in the classroom.

Shared fifth grader Lexi from the Longwood Academy,

“It makes me feel like a scientist. When I grow up, I actually want to be a scientist.”

Check out the wonderful news story by Gilma Avalos from NBC News:

Hands-on hydroponic farming taught in NYC high schools – Fox 5 New York

Fox 5 NY News recently visited Q721 John F. Kennedy Jr. School in Queens to see our program in action. The story, which aired on the 5 o’clock news, showcased how high school students with special needs are learning science and sustainability through our hydroponic farming program.

Speaking with reporter Dana Arschin, students in the class shared their favorite crops to grow – from eggplant and snow peas to arugula and tomatoes – and what they love about hydroponic farming. Said 12th grader Jarule Boapeah, speaking through his electronic communication device, “I love to see plants growing — I feel proud.” 

Special education teacher Conor Barry, who teaches hydroponic science & farming at the school, explained how the program meets students’ sensory needs. “For students who are visually impaired, they are able to hear the water throughout the day, raining down the tower garden. They are able to taste the vegetables, smell the vegetables, to feel what they are doing. So it’s a really hands-on program.” 

It’s wonderful to see these farmer-scientists at work and the enthusiasm they have for what they’re learning. Said student Xavier Lindsay, speaking through a communication device, “I love to see the science of growing the garden and vegetables. It is amazing. We are scientists in Mr. Barry’s hydroponics class.”

Honoring Girls in STEM!

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of global development goals, as outlined in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Yet while the global community has made progress in engaging women and girls in science, there is still a great deal of work to be done to eliminate the gender gap in STEM education and careers. To recognize and publicize these important goals, the United Nations General Assembly declared February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

In honor of this special day, NY Sun Works asked teachers from our partner schools to nominate girls who have demonstrated significant achievements in their science classes. We received 15 nominations, ranging from elementary to high school students, all of whom are passionate and dedicated scientists! The students were featured in a series of social media posts, along with our own NY Sun Works scientist, Becky Higgins, and April Contreras, an engineer at the NY Power Authority, one of our biggest partners. 

PS 158 in Brooklyn Unveils NY Sun Works Hydroponic Farm Classroom with Local Leaders

A NY Sun Works Hydroponic Farm Classroom is officially open at PS 158 Warwick Elementary School in Brooklyn! Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, City Council Member Sandy Nurse, and District Superintendent Tamra Collins, joined Principal Towles and partner NY Sun Works, to unveil the hydroponic classroom.

The PS 158 NY Sun Works farm classroom was funded by former Brooklyn Borough President, and now NYC Mayor, Eric Adams as part of his initiative to improve STEM education and access to nutritious food by investing in the next generation of scientists, climate leaders and farmers of the future. Throughout his tenure as borough president, Eric Adams funded a total of 74 hydroponic classrooms in Brooklyn public schools.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries stated, “What a blessing to be able to see this combination of understanding the importance of our climate and of nature, but also of…healthy eating. I look forward to doing everything I can in my capacity as your representative in Washington to make sure that all children get the highest quality of education possible so that they can be anything and everything that they want to be.”

While emphasizing the value of a true partnership, Manuela Zamora, Executive Director of NY Sun Works added, “We are honored to work with Principal Towles and her team at PS 158 to bring 21st century science and sustainability education into the public school classroom. The hydroponic lab will provide students with the opportunity to grow food while learning hands-on about science and climate education as well as nutrition, food justice and community service.”

“The mission of P.S. 158K is to provide a collaborative environment between school, home and the community that will develop rigorous academic achievement, promoting critical thinking and supporting the social and emotional needs of our students to become global thinkers of the
future. Aligning with District 19’s commitment to STEM education, the Hydroponic Lab opens the door for our students to explore, create and develop innovative ideas to develop solutions around providing healthy food choices for students and families in our community.

Thank you, Mayor Adams, for your support to ensure our students at PS158K and District 19 have the STEM resources they need to become global thinkers of the future. The seed you have sown in their lives today will bear much fruit for their future. Thank you NY Sunworks for
your partnership to support our Hydroponic Lab,” added Principal Towles.

D19 Superintendent Dr. Tamra Collins stated, “District 19 is committed to ensuring its students are provided with all the real world experiences and opportunities that STEM education has to offer. Our district acknowledges the importance of tapping into a child’s natural curiosity, creativity and innovation in order to ensure the development of their critical thinking skills. We work collaboratively across the district to make it a reality. Thank you, Mayor Adams for your continued support in ensuring District 19 students have access to state of the art STEM tools and resources. Your efforts ensure that these children will be the generation of innovators
equipped with the skills, passion, and opportunities to change the world!”

The hydroponic classroom at PS 158 is more than an urban farm as it brings the Pre-K through 5th grade community together. Students in Pre-K – 5th grade will explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) + sustainability topics while growing food with cutting-edge technology. The average NY Sun Works hydroponic classroom produces more than 500 pounds of vegetables per school year!

“A hydroponics garden is going to be familiar to these young kids forever in their lives, something that I had never seen or thought of in my time. What we need to do is continue to do that work. … I’m just so grateful that Eric Adams as borough president helped do this – I hope that I can match that type of energy and that effort and that investment, and that I continue to
help. … You will have a partner in me, and I’m looking forward to this long-term relationship where, again, we expect more of our children and we get more from our children,” stated Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.