PATERSON, NJ – Just months after being awarded the USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program, in partnership with New York Sun Works, John P. Holland Charter School had their first harvest on Friday.
Students from Pre-K to 8th grade gathered around the hydroponic garden to learn how it worked and even got to taste some herbs. Teachers are nearing the end of their training and will soon be able to begin the new curriculum that New York Sun Works has provided.
“We do have a curriculum team that provides the teachers with the curriculum,” Karolina Sawicka, from New York Sun Works said. “Whether they [the teachers] want to use it or not or use it as inspiration to what they want to incorporate into their classrooms. We give the teachers all the tools and support them along the way.”
“The students are so excited for today,” Christina Scano, Founder/Lead Person at John P Holland said. “It never hit me that these students didn’t realize where some foods came from until now, which is amazing.”
New York Sun Works is a third party working with a variety of schools throughout New York City and New Jersey.
“We just built this whole classroom this year as part of the greenhouse project that we started 10 years ago,” Sawicka said. “We just want to bring STEM to kids, whatever age they are.”
The program provides the classes with the systems and the teachers with knowledge on how to take care of the systems. This knowledge includes how to take care of the plants and diagnose any fungal infections and bacterial infections/pests.
Trainers also teach teachers how to handle any mishaps such as leaks, adjusting the reservoirs for the plants benefits and so on.
“I’m most excited about all the implications,” Neril Sandeep, 5th-8th grade science teacher said. “To me, as a science teacher, I’m always caring about the application. Whether it’s about the community driven stuff, being able to potentially reach out to vendors and have them maybe do a sample for them so that they can think about hydroponics in their restaurant or their facilities.”
Sandeep told his students to keep the pumpkin seeds from their pumpkins so they can grow more with the hydroponic garden for next fall.
“We can already find ways to get kids involved,” Sandeep said. “It’s understanding that full circle of life.”
The School’s goal is for students to learn why hydroponics are so meaningful and inspire them to go into food production in the future or broaden their choices when it comes to food.
“The kids will also be bringing this home to their families, so if their more interested in eating vegetables at school, they might request to eat it at home and tell their parents to buy it,” Sawicka said.
“I’m really excited about the garden,” Brianna, a 4th grade student said. “I’m excited that we’ll be able to grow our own stuff.”
In the future, Brianna hopes to be able to grow more than just herbs and flowers. She would like to grow some of her favorite fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers.
While this was mainly a trial run for teachers during their training, students will begin to grow their own herbs and flowers soon and will be able to harvest and bring them home in the Spring.