By Tim Harfmann
A new science classroom is nourishing young minds and the environment. At Saint Saviour in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the all-girls Catholic high school unveils its hydroponic lab. “It’s an environmentally friendly way to farm without taking up much space and bringing fruits and vegetables to kitchens in urban areas all year round,” said Deirdre Moran. She is a junior at the high school and excited to learn in the lab.
The hands-on technology involves soil-less planting to grow everything from spinach and lettuce to cucumbers and eggplants. But the lab teaches more than farming. “The hydroponic lab has really made everybody come alive in a sense. It’s really brought an environment of, not just awareness of what’s going on in the world, but fun,” said Alaina DiSalvo, a Saint Saviour junior. “We learn about the environment and how it affects our daily life. it also talks about climate change and how to prevent it from happening or how to decrease it,” said Naomi Thornill. She is also a junior.
It also echoes Pope Francis’ mission to care for God’s creations. Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop James Massa blessed the lab, sprinkling the well-lit space with holy water. He said the project follows the Holy Father’s encyclical, ‘Laudato Si;’ “One can be contemporary and deeply committed to the care for the environment. At the same time, be rooted in our Catholic values and Catholic faith.”
The initiative is a collaboration with NY Sun Works, a non-profit organization devoted to bringing innovative science labs into urban schools. The vibrant little laboratory is dedicated to Roberta Willard, a retired teacher who was at the forefront of bringing environmental science to Saint Saviour students over three decades ago. “Nature surrounds us and the earth is our home, so the responsibilities we have get passed on from one generation to the other,” said Willard. Eileen Cush is part of that next generation to teach current students about the importance of saving the environment. “Maybe they won’t go out into the world and actually hydroponically farm, but perhaps they will be inspired to become engineers and innovators,” said Cush/ She is the chairperson of the school’s science department.
Everything the students grow will be donated to CHiPS, a Brooklyn soup kitchen founded by Catholics, which serves nearly 350 meals a day. The students of Saint Saviour are now enjoying the real fruits of their labor — the chance to help save the planet in one small way while continuing to grow in their Catholic faith.