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Discovering Sustainability Science

Our Discovering Sustainability Science Youth Conference has been held annually since 2011 and is an opportunity for students from our 200 partner schools to showcase the research and investigations they’ve conducted in their hydroponic farm-classrooms.  Joining the students will be scientists and innovators in the sustainability + STEM fields to share their insights and experience, and show students the real-world applications of the concepts and technology they’re working with in school.  Past student presentations have examined how to capture carbon while encouraging plant growth; transforming mechanical energy into electricity across the city; and creating energy audits for large school buildings or commercial spaces. 

Typically held in person at Symphony Space in Manhattan, the Conference has taken place virtually since 2020 due to Covid.  It will stream three times on the Conference day via several social media channels and on our website; in 2021, it garnered over 1,200 unique views.  

The NY Sun Works youth conference is presented in 2 Sessions

  • Session 1: Building Sustainable Cities: Students present research focused on design and architecture, sustainable building materials and urban planning.
  • Session 2: Building a Sustainable Future: Students present research focused on urban farming, feeding a growing population, food systems, and ocean conservancy.

“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.”
-Rohan, 5th Grade

Participating Schools and Organizations

Past conferences have had over 30 student groups from NY Sun Works partner schools across the metro area and special guests presenting to live audiences of over 400 and simulcast streaming audiences of hundreds more.

Past student speakers have 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. Students have also proposed solutions ranging from how to capture carbon while encouraging plant growth, to combining and balancing multiple ecosystems and creating energy audits for large commercial spaces.

“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.”

– former Brooklyn Borough President and Mayor Eric Adams

For information about the Youth Conference, contact Becky Higgins.

For information about Youth Conference sponsorships, contact Elana Mass.


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