Hydroponic handout across District 29 1

Fifth-grader Ilan Adil, foreground, and his classmates learned about their new hydroponics kit at PS 54 on Friday.

The next generation of scientists received new materials for cultivating their interests last Friday.

Councilmember Lynn Schulman (D-Forest Hills) in partnership with New York Sun Works, distributed 600 hydroponics kits at three schools in her District 29 on Friday. Students at PS 54 in Richmond Hill, PS 99 in Kew Gardens and PS 144 in Forest Hills will have the chance to participate in a 10-lesson curriculum as they watch their plants grow.

“I’m looking forward to creating it,” Ilan Adil, a fifth-grade student and student council advisor at PS 54, said. “I want to see how you build it. Because I’m just looking at a model and a picture. I want to do it by hand.”

The students will take the materials from their kits and use them to grow plants without soil. The growing medium in which the seeds will be contained is made from coconut fiber.

“A lot of our students and families live in dwellings where they really don’t have the space outside to plant their own gardens,” PS 54 Principal Patricia Hanley said. “This is 21st-century learning. This is the future. We want our students to be able to engage with this kind of thinking, learning and growing.”

“Twenty-first century skill sets go far beyond just hands-on technology,” School District 28 Superintendent Tammy Pate said. “It’s really about conditioning our students to think differently about how they engage the world. These events, like a hydroponic lab, are really helping them to use inquiry as their mold for learning.”

The kit distribution was made possible through funding secured by Schulman. NY Sun Works introduced the “Science in a Box” hydroponic kit program in Sept. 2020 in an effort to promote hands-on science and sustainability teaching in a time when many students were learning in remote or hybrid settings during the pandemic. Since the start of the initiative, the group has donated 12,500 kits to students from 79 schools.

“We use the farming technology to teach the science of sustainability, the how, the why,” NY Sun Works Director of Program Development Megan Nordgren said. “It’s a wonderful hands-on way for kids to experiment, and explore, and connect with nature.”

“It’s important for students, no matter where they are, to have this education,” Schulman said.

Hanley hopes that the taste of a hydroponics program could lead to a lab dedicated to the growing method sometime in the future.

“We would love, love that,” she said. “It is a hope and a dream for our 100-year-old building.”