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Farming Foundations and Climate Connections: Building a Science Education for All Students

September 6, 2023

School is nearly back in session, which means students are mere hours away from their return to the classroom! This year, we’re teaming up with more partner schools than ever, reaching over 300 public schools across all five boroughs of the city. To support our ever-growing community of farmer-scientists, our Education Team has reimagined our approach to climate education curriculum, from our Farming Foundations units to the Harvest Program, with the goal of increasing the connection between the climate and our everyday choices. We additionally want to ensure our curriculum is not just up-to-date with current climate conventions but innovates upon existing approaches to find more engaging ways of instilling sustainable habits and climate change awareness in students across the city. 

Our most ambitious and climate-focused curriculum expansion yet, Farming Foundations 2 builds upon the basics of sustainable hydroponic farming introduced in previous lessons. Students and teachers grow crops from seed to harvest using 14 brand new lessons, all while making stronger and more explicit connections to climate change and sustainability science. Not only do we want to make students aware of current climate challenges, we want to empower them to imagine creative solutions to them. For example, in a unit focused on seed germination, students are encouraged to examine how the level of heat applied to seeds impacts their germination. Once they’ve conducted their experiments, farmer-scientists will apply their newfound knowledge to the real world by answering questions about how rising global temperatures could influence the germination of seeds in high-heat zones, and how hydroponic farming may serve as one potential solution to this emerging problem.

The Harvest Program has been an important part of the hydroponic classroom experience for some time now, acting as a capstone to the cycle of plant life growing in each school’s hydroponic systems. This year, our Education Team has breathed new life into the Harvest Program with a new pre-harvest lesson aptly named the Honorable Harvest. Named for the ethical reciprocity found in the teachings of indigenous American peoples and coined by author Robin Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, the Honorable Harvest precedes the day-of Harvest Event with a curricular focus on gratitude, respect, and waste minimization. By incorporating this additional lens of thankfulness into the Harvest cycle, our hope is that students will gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for our food, how we grow it, and where it comes from. 

Additionally, we’ve revisited the original Farming Foundations, which was previously focused on the daily ins and outs of hydroponic farming. While we want teachers to have a simple, easy-to-use reference guide on how to maintain their hydroponic systems, it’s important that the climate impacts of urban farming are apparent as they learn about its practical benefits. These Climate Connections have been added to every Farming Foundations lesson, allowing students to consider the climate impacts of their actions as they learn about urban farming. We’ve also further differentiated much of our Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum, adding scaffolded supports to better meet the needs of our youngest students. Simultaneously, we’ve introduced new titles into our NY Sun Works Book Club for middle and high school, which offer teachers who want to dive deeper into our program more ways to get their class involved in our wider community. 

As we continue to grow as an organization, we’ve made a concerted effort to not only maintain focus on our mission but to increase our emphasis on it. Over recent years, the world has continued to see more severe weather events and an increase in global temperature. Students need and deserve a comprehensive climate education now more than ever, and it truly is up to the adults and leaders of today to ensure an equitable, accessible, and sustainable future not only for the next generation of New Yorkers, but for everyone and everything that calls our planet home.


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