Richmond Hill High School partners with New York Sun Works to launch Hydroponics Lab, cultivating sustainability education

richmond hill high school
A new Hydroponics Lab in Richmond Hill High School is growing greenery to educate future generations on the science of sustainability.
Photo by Anthony Medina

Richmond Hill High School has taken the next step in helping students understand the value of sustainability with a newly installed Hydroponics Lab, where the possibilities of growing more plant life without using soil are explored.

New York Sun Works, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching the science behind sustainability practices and climate change, has helped install 48 hydroponic labs throughout Queens, with 22 additional programs expected to come this year.

The non-profit organization joined educators at Richmond Hill High School, located at 89-30 114th St., to officially cut the ribbon on the new Queens lab alongside City Council Member Lynn Schulman and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, on Wednesday, Apr. 3.

A ribbon cutting ceremony at Richmond Hill High School brought educators, students and elected officials into the new Hydroponic Lab, where the science of sustainability is learned through alternative nutrients options for plant growth. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards says more labs are expected to come to Queens schools. Photo by Anthony Medina

The Hydroponics Lab in Richmond Hill High School has made remarkable advancements in the field of botany since they started late last year. Guests attending the event were greeted by a large display of school-grown vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.

Elsewhere in the lab, a variety of herbs and plant life at various stages of growth thrived in meticulously designed planters. Arguably one of the most well-lit rooms in the building, the hydroponics lab also works hand-in-hand with a culinary program within the school.

Produce grown from the Hydroponics Lab are shared with the cafeteria staff and a culinary class within Richmond Hill. A carefully curated selection of in-house vegetables are shared with lab guests. Photo by Anthony Medina

The connection between the two classes allows students to taste the vegetables they grow and share what is made with other classmates. NY Sun Works Director of Development and Government Relations Megan Nordgrén, said what students are achieving in the program set the example for a more sustainable future. Nordgrén thanked City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams for added funding for hydroponic labs.

“As we approach Earth Day, many leaders will talk about the importance of protecting the planets. But I can tell you proudly that these leaders here with us today do much more, they take action,” Nordgrén said.

A bed of plants specially crafted to use hydroponics as a means to provide nutrients for plant life is accompanied by specialized lighting to stimulate growth. Photo by Anthony Medina

With the dedicated attention and care from the students, under the expert guidance of their teacher, Jane Han, a seasoned educator with 28 years of experience, and the support of New York Sun Works, the plant life within the hydroponics lab flourishes.

One of the larger displays in the lab is an Aquaponics Farm, where tilapia fish live in a pool-like structure and provide nutrients to the plant life floating above the water. Students can view the growth of both plant and fish life while understanding how those two ecosystems interact, Han explained to QNS.

Jan Han, teaching Hydroponics in the new lab, shows off a compost that is home to a multitude of worms. The compost serves as another example of sustainability practices. Photo by Anthony Medina

Taking care of the plants also comes with its fair share of challenges. Spending an extra hour each day tending to the greenery, Han also checks in on the classroom’s worm farm. The worms are maintained through a small compost comprised of the remnants of dead plants and spoiled fruits, further providing examples of sustainability.

Queens Borough President Richards applauded the NY Sun Works and Richmond Hill High School for their efforts. He went on to share how bringing more programs, such as those offered by NY Sun Works to students, would help dispel the stigma that South Queens schools are not up to par with other institutions.

“We’ve talked about not having to leave our community to have these opportunities. Every zip code should have the same opportunity no matter what your socio-economic status is, no matter where you come from,” Richards said. “You should have the same opportunity that somebody on the Upper West Side has.”

Furthermore, Richards announced his plans to make a $700,000 financial allocation to continue adding hydroponic labs to Queens schools. He is anticipated to share more about this announcement during his State of The Borough Address on Friday, Apr. 12.

Overall, Richmond Hill High School President Tarek Alamarie says the addition of the lab is another way Richmond Hill High School stays true to career-focused learning while preparing students for higher education.