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NY Sun Works on Climate Action and Education at the Harvard Graduate School

November 16, 2023

This month, NY Sun Works was honored to be invited to the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the 2023 Think Tank on Global Education (TGE): Climate Change Edition! Our Executive Director Manuela Zamora and Director of Education Liz McKoy traveled north to lead a session on Climate Action Partnerships, accompanied by Principal Irene Leon of PS89 Cypress Hills Community School in Brooklyn, one of our very first school partners. Chaired by Harvard professor and scholar of global citizenship education Fernando M. Reimers, this annual think-tank invites leaders in education to learn about, develop, and deliver powerful instruction based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Underscored by an urgent need to reimagine education in the wake of a global pandemic that forced teachers around the world to bring learning beyond their classrooms, our goal at this think-tank was to share the lessons we’ve learned from over 13 years of partnering with schools and teachers. With learning loss impacting students across ages and grade bands, the need for an authentic, relevant, and meaningful school experience is present now more than ever, and our Hydroponic Classrooms have proven effective at offering just that. Over 90% of NY Sun Works partner teachers surveyed shared that students in their classrooms are interested in and eager to engage with core sustainability science concepts. By offering students the chance to get their hands dirty, learn by doing, ask questions, and discover their own answers, we’ve been consistently able to re-engage those who otherwise may have academically struggled. 

One of the unique strengths that has helped shepherd our success is the adaptability of our program to the diverse landscape of New York City schools. With more than 300 school partners across all five boroughs as well as metro NJ, we’ve been able to reach and support learning communities of all shapes and sizes. With NYC, NY State, and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in mind, our curriculum is designed to meet students where they are and empower them to connect with the climate in a way that best suits their learning styles. By cultivating plants of their own, students are encouraged to emotionally invest in their school experience as they nurture their very own living things. Not only do students grow their own crops, but they also reap the benefits of their work through in-school harvests that invite parents and other community members to join in, creating a full cycle of learning and reciprocity. 

By speaking to our experience building sustainable partnerships in the largest public education system in the United States, we hope to inspire others to tackle the most pressing challenge of our time: climate change. Only through equitable, accessible opportunities for education and growth can we build the sustainable future our young people deserve. While we’ve been working hard to bring nature into the classrooms of NYC, we were thrilled to join others making a difference in communities of their own and feel inspired to continue driving meaningful change in the communities where it’s needed most. 


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