New York colleges grow food and flowers in hydroponic classrooms

On April 28 and 29, South Bronx Early College Academy (SBECA) and The Longwood Academy of Discovery celebrated the official opening of their hydroponic-farm classrooms. Representatives from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club and NY Sun Works joined school staff and students for the ribbon-cutting, informative tour of the hydroponic systems, and sampling of leafy greens and fresh herbs they helped grow from seed to harvest in each of the classrooms.

SBECA’s hydroponic classroom engages 6-8th graders, and Longwood Academy of Discovery’s classroom involves its K-5th graders. These classrooms provide a hands-on, project-based sustainability science education aligned with New York City and New York State science standards while students grow and harvest hundreds of pounds of fresh, delicious produce throughout the school year. The average NY Sun Works hydroponic classroom produces more than 500 pounds of vegetables during the school year.

At South Bronx Early College Academy, marigolds, chards, lettuce, and lavender grow in the school's nutrient film technique (nft) system. 

“We are honored to work with Principal Krulwich and his team at SBECA to bring 21st-century science and sustainability education into the public-school classroom,” said Manuela Zamora, executive director of NY Sun Works. “The hydroponic lab will allow students to grow food while learning hands-on about science and climate education, as well as nutrition, food justice, and community service.”

Both hydroponic classrooms were funded by Green Mountain Energy Sun Club, the renewable energy provider’s charitable program. The sustainability grant enables NY Sun Works to bring hydroponic farm classrooms to the two schools in adjacent South Bronx neighborhoods for K-8th grade continuity in sustainability education.

“Green Mountain Energy Sun Club is honored to collaborate with NY Sun Works to bring these hydroponic gardens to life,” said Mark Parsons, Green Mountain Energy vice president. “We recognize the important work NY Sun Works is doing to educate children on integrating environmentally conscious, accessible, and practical elements into their everyday lives.” Since 2002, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club has empowered local communities by donating nearly $11.7 million to 143 nonprofit organizations across Texas and the Northeast. Sun Club supports projects promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation, education and awareness, clean transportation, and sustainable agriculture.

The Longwood Academy of Discovery's vine crop system with cucumber and tomato plants.

NY Sun Works provides classroom installation, curriculum, professional development, ongoing training for SBECA and Longwood Academy teachers, and community engagement through special events. The programming focuses on science, sustainability, climate, energy, food justice, and health.

"We are so excited and grateful that our school has had the opportunity to partner with NY Sun Works this year,” said David Krulwich, South Bronx Early College Academy principal. “The urban garden in our 6th-grade science classroom benefits students in so many ways — it helps demonstrate the connection between science, the environment, health, nutrition, and social equity. Our students are more excited about the hands-on, experiential science curriculum, and the garden fosters environmentalism and healthier eating. We hope this will be a part of our school and curriculum for many years."

When discussing what the addition of the hydroponic classroom lab means for Longwood Academy of Discovery, Victoria Nájera, Longwood Academy of Discovery principal, shared, “This lab allows students and the community to learn new 21st-century innovative ways of sustainability in urban farming interlocked with health and wellness.”

For more information:
South Bronx Early College Academy 

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