This year, Hudson County Schools of Technology hosted their first Summer Sustainability Project at High Tech High School. This 5-week workshop was open to all students in our HCST district from middle school to high school, as well as newly accepted students. This project included a lot of hands-on work outside in the garden, in the lab classrooms, and in our greenhouse. The students worked with instructors with various backgrounds that included environmental science, architecture, chemistry, and metalworking.
During hands-on outdoor activities, students were able to learn to care for plants as well as see how they can germinate in hydroponic towers by our hydroponics expert, Ms. Otiepka. Later, they were able to take home their plants to continue to experience outside the classroom. Additionally, the students germinated plants that were later transferred into High Tech’s organic garden. By the end of the 5 weeks, the students were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor as tomatoes and cucumbers became ready for harvest. The students also assisted our metal works teacher, Dr. Bebee, in completing a pergola for our outdoor classroom that they will be able to enjoy during the school year at High Tech. Our experienced Beekeeper, Eric Hanan, also visited the school and brought the students out to our bee hives to educate them on the importance of pollinators and give the students the sweet treat of fresh honeycomb. Incoming freshman, Afsheen says, “Our beehive experience was unique and exhilarating as we were able to be a part of a good hands-on lesson. I learned about various topics such as: how hives work, how to keep a colony strong, and the importance of queen bees. The beekeepers made sure that we were all engaged in the lesson, which made the overall experience exciting! Later, we were allowed to eat some honeycomb. I was happy I was able to experience something as cool as this.”
In addition to outdoor classroom experiences in the garden and bee hive, the students walked to Laurel Hill Park with all the teachers for nature walks. Being so close to the Hackensack River, the students were able to do water testing with our Chemistry teacher, Mr. Goold. We also had the opportunity to take the students on a boat tour of the river and its watersheds with the Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Eco-tour program.
While inside the classroom, the students got to take their outdoor knowledge experience inside. Mrs. Batista, our architecture teacher, showed the students how to turn nature into artwork and how to create sustainable designs. Students designed their own birdhouses based on research and nature-walk observations. During other classroom lessons, Ms. Gurczeski taught students about the importance of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and taught the students how to design maps to show sustainable areas and composting centers in their community.
Overall the program was a success since we achieved our two goals of introducing students to the vast world of sustainability, and most importantly having fun!