By Alicia Venter
A new green classroom has opened at Energy Tech High School in Astoria. The classroom will grow herbs and vegetables through the year in a soil-less garden.
The lab is designed to help students learn about urban food production and sustainability; it is a hydroponic system, meaning that the plants will be grown in water containing nutrients instead of soil, with seeding stations, a tower garden, composting station and hanging vines.
Kale and herbs will be grown in the lab, and they will be made available to the AP Environmental Science classes and a Green Team after-school program.
The project is a collaboration between the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Energy Tech. Led by NYPA’s Environmental Justice programming, the green classroom builds on the national Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) program.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Nov. 15 in the 9th grade Living Environment classroom with New York Sun Works — a non-profit organization that built the lab — and elected officials in attendance.
Following the ribbon cutting, a tasting of classroom-grown fresh basil with tomato and mozzarella was held with the Energy Tech High School community.
“Our new hydroponic lab has been welcomed with great enthusiasm by our school community,” said Energy Tech principal Hope Barter. “Through this partnership, students are provided with enriching classroom instruction focused on the science of sustainability, engaging and high interest hands-on learning, and access to the healthy foods that they have helped to cultivate. The program also contributes to students’ knowledge of additional green career pathways and areas of STEM study. We greatly appreciate our partners at New York Power Authority and NY Sun Works for bringing us these valuable opportunities.”
The P-TECH program offers paid internships to high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Energy Tech has had students in the program for the last two summers. 14 students at Energy Tech have earned scholarships from NYPA.
Energy Tech High School serves grades 9-14; it is an Early College Initiative and Career and Technical Education school catering its education to the growing energy industry.
NYPA has funded 18 green classrooms and two green community laboratories in New York City over the past three years. The average classroom created by New York Sun Works produces more than 500 pounds of vegetables per school year.
“NYPA is pleased to support the Energy Tech High School learning lab that will bring new opportunities to students who want to prepare for skilled in-demand clean energy jobs and go on to personally rewarding careers,” said NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “NYPA supports New York State’s long-standing commitment to creating a more diversified, highly skilled workforce and these creative STEM and sustainability programs ignite young people’s interest in the energy and environment fields. Students will learn about sustainable food production and environmental science as part of the education they need to become the next generation on the front lines of fighting climate change.”
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