Greenhouse Project Co-Founder Sidsel Robards Shifts from Director of Development to Strategic Planning Role on Board of Directors

Press Release

New Leadership Structure at New York Sun Works

Sidsel Robards departs after a decade as co-director, to take on a strategic role; Manuela Zamora remains as Executive Director. Growth continues to accelerate at the leading K-12 specialty science education provider. 

New York City, August 2nd, 2020. New York Sun Works (NYSW) today announced that Sidsel Robards, one of the founders of the company’s core Greenhouse Project program, has moved out of daily operations and into a strategic role.

Since 2008, Robards has been at the heart of New York Sun Works’ campaign to build greenhouse science classrooms in New York City public schools. Merging science, sustainability, and hydroponic food production, over 130 of the laboratories have been built to date across all five boroughs of the city, and the pace continues to accelerate as demand for NYSW’s equipment, teacher training, and comprehensive K-12 curriculum remains strong. As a co-founder of the Greenhouse Project, Robards worked with education authorities, teachers, and administrators over many years to secure the multitude of individual school partnerships that have proven critical to the organization’s mission. Read »

NY Power Authority VP – Environmental Justice and Sustainability Lisa Payne Wansley On The Importance of Education to Combat Injustice

“In a world where we struggle to fight for equity for all, NYPA and NY Sun Works are united in the fundamental belief that education is the key to providing all students with a bright future. We must invest in all students to give them the educational foundation that they rightfully deserve. We must also provide them with hands-on learning opportunities that teach classroom as well as life skills, and green-classrooms are a fine example of that.”

Preparing for September: Blended Learning, Safety Protocols in the Greenhouse Classroom, Supporting Farmer Scientists and the Community

Our NYC teachers did incredible work to move students to remote learning following the closure of schools in March. To help teachers continue the science and sustainability education taking place in their hydroponic classrooms, NY Sun Works updated the online Learning Center to help teachers adjust to the new reality. While we cannot yet predict what September will look like, NY Sun Works will continue to support our teachers and is already preparing for a range of possibilities. 

Distance Learning Support and Resources

Thinking ahead to September, NY Sun Works will be updating and adding to our current remote learning resources. Additional lessons adapted for google class for K-8 and new offerings for high school will help support a highly possible blended learning scenario. Lessons will be available in google slides and will include resources such as NYSW reports (which will also be available in Spanish), recorded videos, as well as individual and small group work options. We will be expanding the NYSW Let’s Investigate video series which brings some of our hands-on science lessons home and features members of the Greenhouse Support Team. These videos will also be embedded into lessons. Finally, NYSW is in the process of developing a Hydroponics at Home student kit that will include hydroponic essentials such seeds and growing substrates. These new kits will allow students to engage in hands-on learning at home. 

We’d love to hear from you! To improve our offerings for next school year, please complete this survey. Parents, teachers, and principals are all encouraged to share their feedback.  Read »

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

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

A Message from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to Students and Teachers

“This is a tough time in New York’s history.  But today I’m feeling hope for our city after watching the incredible student scientists share their hard work [and] innovative research projects that will help New York be greener and healthier in the long term. […]  I celebrate the teachers who are inspiring these students to continue their exploration and guide them through their learning.  Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that our students understand science, as well as how to improve their health with a good diet of fruits and vegetables. I stand with you in the fight for a healthy future.”

Students Share Science Research and Message of Resilience in NY Sun Works 9th Annual Discovering Sustainability Science Conference

COVID-19 school closures didn’t stop these young farmer-scientists!  On Monday, May 18th, students from public schools around NYC came together virtually to share their research and celebrate their scientific accomplishments at NY Sun Works’ 9th Annual Discovering Sustainability Science Youth Conference.

The Conference, typically hosted at Symphony Space to accommodate the large audience, pivoted to an online format this year due to COVID-19.  But the switch to virtual didn’t tamp down the enthusiasm or energy of the students, all of whom showed impressive perseverance in shifting gears and continuing their months-long research projects from home after schools closed, under the remote guidance of their teachers.

“The whole conference was amazing!” said Wendy Rodriguez, a teacher at P.S. 176.  “All of the kids . . . wow!  They did a fantastic job!”

The 25 student speakers, who ranged from 5th to 12th grade, presented on an array of science and sustainability topics, including designing at-home hydroponic systems, the environmental hazards of microplastics, and the role of the Doomsday Vault in seed preservation.  Students examined the impact of environmental factors like temperature changes, flooding, and music on plant growth and how plants could be used in environmental and medical applications, such as for bioremediation of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal and the use of Mimosa pudica as a spinal cord stimulator.

The students were joined remotely by actress Stephanie Hsu, AKA Mei in Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, who returned for a second year to emcee and cheer on the students, and special guests Dr. Gioia Massa, a plant space scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; Jenn Frymark, plant biologist and Chief Greenhouse Officer at Gotham Greens; and Phil Vos and Kyle Jeremiah, biogas experts at Energy Vision.  Fifth grader Rohan Gibr Rao-Fernandez succinctly summarized the experience when he said,

“I learned about all of the jobs involving how we, people, work with plant life including growing plants in space that are edible.  WOW!  And I saw that we have so much science that we have not learned yet.”

In what’s been a very difficult time for all, these students sent an inspiring message of resilience and determination.  As Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams shared in his post-conference message,

“This is a tough time in New York’s history.  But today I’m feeling hope for our city after watching the incredible student scientists share their hard work [and] innovative research projects that will help New York be greener and healthier in the long term.”

NY Sun Works Hosts Virtual Science and Sustainability Youth Conference for 2020

Check out the amazing presentations from this year’s students and guest speakers!

Let’s Flood Freddie! – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Does Mulch Color Really Have A Beneficial Effect On Bean Plant Growth? – St. Saviour High School
DIY Hydroponics – West End Secondary School
Brassica Oleracea: The Vegetable Miracle – PS 199 Jesse Isidor Straus
Gotham Greens – Jenn Frymark: Chief Greenhouse Officer
The Steer of Sustainability in School Communities – Edward R. Murrow High School
Doomsday Vault – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Creating the Optimum Environment for Thalissia Testudinum Growth –  Edward R. Murrow High School
The Effect of Temperature on Plant Growth – St. Saviour High School
Hydroponics at Home – West End Secondary school
Why Grow Plants in Space? – Gioia Massa, NASA
Terracycling: Recycling the Non-recyclable at MSC – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Bioremediation of Gowanus Canal Water: A Riparian Buffer Approach – Edward R Murrow High School
Microplastics: Small Things Big Problems – PS 199 Jesse Isidor Straus
The Story of My Plastic – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Creating a Hydroponics System from Recycled Materials – St. Saviour High School
Organic “Wastes”: A Valuable Resource for a Sustainable Energy Future – Kyle Jeremiah and Phil Vos, Energy Vision
The Effect of Music on Plants – St. Saviour High School
Science At Home – K377 Alejandrina B. De Gautier
Mimosa Pudica As a Plant-based Sensor for Spinal Cord Stimulator – Edward R Murrow High School
Recycling Rockwool – K176 The Ovington School

NY Sun Works Learning Center Updated for Remote Learning

Our NYC teachers have done incredible work to quickly move our students to remote learning following the sudden schools closure last month.  To help teachers adjust to this new reality and to continue the science and sustainability education of the hydroponic classroom, NY Sun Works has updated the online Learning Center to include a new section, Lessons for Remote Learning.  We have pulled from our entire curriculum, lessons for grades K-8, that do not require direct interaction with the hydroponic systems, but connect with them through concepts, images, NY Sun Works reports, and exciting videos of our maintenance team conducting investigations at home. The lessons are available through the NY Sun Works Learning Center, our online teacher hub. Our initial focus has been on K-5th and 6-8th grade lessons, which are now available. Work on High school learning options is underway.

The remote learning lessons have been designed to give teachers immediate tools to continue the science and sustainability lessons they started in their greenhouse classrooms, and can easily be shared with  students through the Google Classroom platform.  The lessons can easily be student-driven, or facilitated by a parent, and do not require the virtual presence of the teacher.  Resources such as NYSW Reports are included in the lessons, as well as easy instructions for downloading and sharing with your students.

To further bring the hands-on science lessons home, our maintenance team is currently conducting a selection of investigations in their own homes!  They are doing the experiments the same way that the teachers would have done in their hydroponic classrooms, and sharing their results via video.  But they are also adapting the experiments so that students can replicate them in their own homes with items they have on hand.  For example, instead of using rockwool, students can use cotton.  Each video will be accompanied by a lesson that can be shared through the Google Classroom platform. These videos, which will be available on the Learning Center soon, will be a great way to help students navigate the experiments at home, but also have a chance to “see” their NY Sun Works maintenance staff! New investigation videos will be uploaded weekly, so be sure to continue checking the Learning Center.

NY Sun Works COVID-19 Update

Dear Friends of NY Sun Works,

We hope you’re staying healthy, active, and safe. With NYC schools closing this past week, the NY Sun Works crew has been working hard to support our partner schools, in particular our teachers, to temporarily close their Greenhouse Classroom systems and to prepare to teach remotely.

Following DOE and CDC recommendations, our maintenance team acted on a school-by-school basis to either close down labs (remotely or in person), coordinate support with volunteer teachers and custodial staff, or plan for future access to keep labs running, particularly in schools with aquaponic systems/fish-farms in operation.

Our Education team is working diligently to prepare Distance Learning Units for every grade. This includes a selection of lessons from our Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum that do not require interaction with the hydroponic systems installed in the classroom, but connect with them through concepts, images, videos, and NY Sun Works reports. The lessons will be available through the NY Sun Works Learning Center, our online teacher hub. We are initially focusing on K-5th and 6-8th grade lessons, which will be available this week. High school learning options also will be available at the Learning Center soon.

This is “business unusual” and we are here to support our teachers every step of the way.

Times like this underscore the critical need for our students – and our policymakers – to understand and respect science.  A solid science education will allow our students to make informed decisions in the future that impact their lives and the community around them. We hope that our hands-on program will help to inspire today’s students so that they may one day become farmers with technical skills to feed our growing urban population, or the doctors and scientists finding the vaccines and cures for future crises.

From all of us at NY Sun Works, we thank you for your continued support.

SAVE THE DATE: 5.18.20 – NY Sun Works Youth Conference: Discovering Sustainability Science

The ninth annual NY Sun Works Discovering Sustainability Science Youth Conference offers a platform for students to share their scientific creativity while celebrating their
accomplishments as a part of The Greenhouse Project this school year.

We bring together 5th – 12th grade students, educators, innovators, and political figures  to explore the interaction between humans, technology and the environment.

As we prepare for this year’s conference, we invite you to take a closer look at the amazing student work from the 2019 conference:

Ocean Acidity: A Global Problem – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Actress Stephanie Hsu at the NY Sun Works Youth Conference
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul: A message to the students participating in the Youth Conference
NYPA CEO Gil Quinones: Leading the Effort in Responding to Climate Change
Re-Nuble CEO Tinia Pina: Reducing the Gap Between Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers
If You Love the Ocean Make a Commotion! – PS 199 Jessie Isador Straus
The Effect of Carbonic Acid on Blue Mussel Shells – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Trash Clean Up & Ocean Protection: Student-made Sustainability Apps – Edward R. Murrow HS
PS199 Recycling Rebels: Putting Plastic In Its Place – PS 199 Jessie Isador Straus
The Sustainable Benefits of Growing Your Own Food – Edward R. Murrow High School
Carbonic Acid Impact On Mussells’ Mass – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
The Wick Hydroponic Growing System – PS 84 Jose de Diego
Sustainability at CAS: Our Earth, Our Communities – City-As-School High School
No Rockwool? No Problem! – PS 377 Alejandrina B. De Gautier
Using Science To Make Our World A Better Place – PS 121 Nelson A. Rockefeller
Bioplastics From Organic Waste: Replace Petroleum-based Plastics – Edward R. Murrow High School
Draughts: Causes And Effects – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Making Our Own NFT System: Challenges and Solutions – PS 84 Jose de Diego
Effect of Thermotherapy on the Shelf-Life of Strawberries! – St. Saviour High School
Growing Vegetables in Our Classroom: Sharing with Our Community – PS 233 Langston Hughes
Magnetism And Its Effects On Plant Growth – St. Saviour High School
Sustainable Materials: A Guide for Sustainable Building – PS 333 Manhattan School for Children
Natural And Effective Ways to Absorb Contaminants From Water – Edward R. Murrow High School
Our Path to A Zero Waste School – Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School
Hope For Our Planet, A Poem by Mary Israel – St. Saviour High School
Kenji Williams, Founder, Director, Composer and Violinist – BELLA GAIA: Beautiful Earth