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School’s Out, But Sustainability Science is Always In!

July 11, 2024

Summer is officially here, which means Farmer Scientists in schools around the city are enjoying the warm weather and some fun in the sun. While most of our labs close down while students are away, some remain open through the yearly break, with plants growing from seed to harvest as temperatures soar outdoors. We’re loud and proud about our stance that sustainability should be a year-round affair, but what does it actually take to keep a Hydroponic Classroom running for 365 days and counting?

Most of our classrooms that remain open over the summer do so to support their aquaponic tank systems, which utilize fish like Tilapia to grow plants. These systems combine nutrients produced by fish waste with plants growing above to create an almost entirely self-sufficient system! As fish keep on swimming, the plants floating above help keep waters clean for their waterborne friends. However, due to the animal component of these systems, they need a little extra TLC and can’t be left alone for long periods of time. Instead, our Grow Support Team specialists stop in regularly to keep fish happy and healthy, and ensure the system itself remains clean and fully operational. Aquaponics aside, other labs whose campuses remain open continue growing and harvesting throughout the summer for a variety of reasons including community harvests and other special programs, making full use of their cutting edge hydroponic farming technology.

One such school who has remained open for summer is the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS), where students in 4th and 5th grade Summer Rising programs are diving into hydroponics thanks to a grant from the 2024 Urban Farms and Community Growers Program, which is run through the NYS Agriculture and Markets Department. As part of this program, almost 80 students are using water-based farming systems and soil-based alternatives to nearly double the school’s yield of fresh greens and veggies, maximizing the productivity of their school’s green space. They’ll also work to build a distribution pipeline of what they harvest, taking crops grown at school directly from plant to plate by sharing with community partners like Mixteca and the Center for Family Life in Sunset Park (CFLSP), who serve migrant families and asylum seekers. And finally, building on the first BUGS Harvest Festival held earlier this year, the summer farming program will help students and community members become both teachers and learners when it comes to urban farming, growing deeper roots throughout the school’s Brooklyn community.

We’re keeping the fish company, diving headfirst into hydroponic farming, and getting ready once more to reopen the rest of our labs come the start of next school year. But as we continue growing throughout the summer, climate education remains the core of our mission. Students are learning in labs, and plants are growing alongside them as they learn about the climate. Our team is growing to meet the moment and better support our community, so check out our website to learn more about current opportunities, and follow us on Instagram for more insights into what’s happening in our Hydroponic Classrooms this summer!


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