Students, teachers, and local Highbridge community members came together with NY Sun Works and the New York Power Authority at the Highbridge Green School to celebrate the opening of its hydroponic greenhouse classroom.
Students began the festivities by giving guests a guided tour of their new greenhouse classroom, made possible through an initiative supported by school leadership, the Highbridge community, the New York Power Authority and NY Sun Works, a nonprofit organization which builds innovative science labs in urban schools. The greenhouse classroom is more than an urban farm: students in grades six through eight will explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) + sustainability topics while growing food with cutting-edge technology.
Principal Kyle Brillante and assistant principal Anna Waters shared heartfelt words about the Highbridge Green School and its seven-year journey to get its greenhouse classroom up and running. NYPA’s vice president of Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Lisa Payne Wansley, and Manuela Zamora, executive director at NY Sun Works, also expressed their gratitude and pride.
“Green classrooms are a great way to spark an interest, inspire confidence in students, and help them learn about the wonders of energy and sustainability in fun and creative ways,” said Wansley. “These youngsters are our future leaders and we, at the New York Power Authority along with our partners, want to inspire them to act responsibly in caring for our environment as well as develop skills they can turn into careers.”
While emphasizing the value of a true partnership, Zamora added, “We are honored to work with Principal Brillante and his team at Highbridge Green School in their vision to bring 21st century science and sustainability education into the classroom. The hydroponic lab will provide students with the opportunity to grow food while learning hands-on about science and climate education as well as food justice and community service. We thank the New York Power Authority for its partnership and for making the Highbridge Green School dream possible.”
The initiative is part of NYPA’s Environmental Justice STEM program, which provides educational resources to students from underrepresented communities in close proximity to NYPA’s power assets statewide as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s STEM learning initiative. The funding allowed for a year-round collaboration with NY Sun Works, which provides weekly on-site mentoring and training for teachers, specialized curriculum, greenhouse grow supplies and community engagement support.
The Highbridge Green School is a community school that cares for each of its students’ academic, emotional, and physical well-being. For decades, the neighborhood of Highbridge didn’t have a middle school. The community’s students had to leave the community, often traveling an hour or more on public transportation to get to the closest school. After fighting for many years, the Department of Education agreed and allotted funds for a new middle school, citing the growing population and the importance of having a school in the community.