By Bill Parry
Last year, PS 122 in Astoria became the first public school in the city to open a hydroponic science lab, and now a second Astoria school has one.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides helped cut the ribbon for another hydroponic science lab at IS 126, another major step in his $3.7 million Science 2050 budget initiative to improve science learning spaces in his district.
He has now funded labs in 11 schools since he took office in 2014.
“Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the careers of the future, which is why it’s important we give tomorrow’s leaders hands-on opportunities today,” Constantinides said. “”I hope IS 126 students will greatly benefit from this lab, as students throughout our district will in generations to come.”
Hydroponic labs are a vital component to the Constantinides plan to embolden science education in his district’s public schools. This innovative technology allows students to grow plant life with a relatively low of water and mineral solutions instead of soil.
Not only do hydroponics labs offer hands-on biology education, they also teach students about agriculture, technology and nutrition. Hydroponic labs also employ ladybugs rather than pesticides to protect plants.
“The IS 126 community is very excited about the opening of our hydroponic lab,” IS 126 Principal Alexander Angueira said. “We are looking forward to the hands on experiences that the students will be receiving hands on instruction that they will be able to use all their lives. We are hopeful that the lab will help our students become more environmentally conscious and put them on the path to becoming energy conserving citizens.”
That is something Constantinides has prioritized as he serves as the chairman of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee. Other funding allocated by Constantinides covers STEM lab updates, solar panels, technology and facility upgrades in his district’s schools. Sun Works New York installed the hydroponic lab at IS 126 and trained faculty on how students can get the most out of the technology.
“We are grateful for Council Member Constantinides passionate leadership on science education initiatives,” said Sidsel Robards of New York Sun Works. “With the council members support the students of Astoria will grow up to be leaders in STEM, nutrition, and planetary health while growing food for their community.”
Some of the herbs and vegetables harvested from the hydroponic labs will be donated to Communities for Healthy Food. Other schools either operating a lab or earmarked to receive one include PS 70, PS 17, PS 84, IS 141, Long Island City High School, PS 171, PS 85, PS 300, and the Young Women’s Leadership School.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr