NY Sun Works measures its progress internally using a set of 16 key performance indicators, which include metrics such as the number of hours spent training and mentoring partner school teachers, school participation in the annual youth conference, students attending Greenhouse Project hydroponics labs on a regular basis, how much and how often teachers use the curriculum.
The first phase of our assessment was completed October 2016. The study aimed to determine if elementary school students who receive the NY Sun Works curriculum perform better on the NY State Science Achievement test in 4th grade. Scores were obtained from all NYC 4th graders during 2014 and 2015 school years, and schools were compared to peer schools that are not NY Sun Works partners therefore they don’t have a Greenhouse Project Classroom nor they receive the NY Sun Works curriculum.
RESULTS: The 2016 NY Sun Works Curriculum and Science Achievement Report conducted by Kate Gardner Burt, PhD, RD concludes that students who receive the NY Sun Works curriculum are more likely to score higher on the 4th grade science achievement test than students who do not receive the NY Sun Works curriculum. (Kate G. Burt, Marissa Burgermaster, Dina D’Alessandro, Rachel Paul & Marina Stopler (2019): New York City fourth graders who receive a climate change curriculum with hydroponic gardening have higher science achievement scores, Applied Environmental Education & Communication, DOI: 10.1080/1533015X.2019.1611504)
In addition, the results of this study also indicate that the NY Sun Works program may not only meet core science requirements but also integrate climate change and sustainability education in a way that improves student’s understanding of science as a whole. Dr. Gardner Burt also states this may be an ideal model that meets the need to integrate climate change and sustainability into the school curriculum, as many States adopt the core curriculum and may be looking into this integration.
Phase 2 and Beyond
In 2020, NY Sun Works partnered with Knology, a social science research organization, to assess the impact of our Home Hydroponic STEM Kits and Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum. We introduced the STEM Kit program in September 2020 to support hands-on science and sustainability teaching during remote and hybrid learning; between September 2020 and March 2021, our team assembled and delivered 12,500 kits to students from 79 schools!
NY Sun Works is thrilled to share the exciting results of Knology’s study: the Kits and curriculum conclusively bolster science knowledge and critical thinking skills and nurture students’ social-emotional well-being. As the Knology report, Impacts of NY Sun Works’ Discovering Sustainability Science, states, “At their core, the Discovering Sustainability Science curriculum and the Home Hydroponic Kits embody innovation, flexibility, hands-on learning, and critical thinking that meet the challenges of an uncertain education landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Further, “the NY Sun Works team was the engine for innovation and creativity in envisioning a resource that could cultivate students and educators during the pandemic.”
Download and read the full Knology report here: Impacts of NY Sun Works’ Discovering Sustainability Science
Knology’s evaluation incorporated interviews, focus groups, and a written survey encompassing all grade levels (elementary, middle, and high school) and a mix of new and returning teachers, to ensure a broad range of teacher feedback. Across all cohorts, teachers unanimously reported that the curriculum and kits effectively helped students learn science concepts and sparked students’ curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving skills. One teacher captured students’ overall response with the comment, “every time we did a lesson they wanted more.”
Teachers observed that having a plant to nurture at home provided much-needed social-emotional support in a trying time, giving students something positive to focus on and creating a sense of continuity for students who had previously used the Greenhouse classrooms at school. The benefits extended to students’ families, generating enthusiasm about using the kits and caring for the plants, and creating a shared learning experience and activity to participate in together during quarantine.
Teachers also reported that students became more curious about science in general, including expressing an interest in pursuing science-related activities in the future, and that the kits helped students feel more connected with nature — particularly important in a time when access to green space was highly limited.
We want to thank the NY Sun Works team for their incredible work developing, assembling, and distributing these valuable resources, and our thanks to Knology for their insightful report, which can be accessed here, and to our partner teachers for taking the time to provide such helpful feedback. The kits are back as a learning resource in 2023, and for more on how to order, please click here.