Our Youth

Around the School Bell: Saint Saviour HS Indoor Hydroponics Lab

The hydroponic greenhouse classroom was dedicated to Saint Saviour’s former faculty member Roberta Willard, who taught environmental science at the Park Slope school in the 1980s. Above, Willard attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Photos: Saint Saviour H.S.)


By Tim Harfmann

A new science classroom at Saint Saviour H.S. is nourishing young minds and the environment. The all-girls Catholic high school unveiled its hydroponic lab, March 25.

“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 junior Deirdre Moran who said she was excited to learn in the new lab.

The hands-on technology involves soil-less planting to grow anything from spinach and lettuce to cucumbers and eggplants. But the lab teaches more than just farming.

“We learn about the environment and how it affects our daily life,” said junior Naomi Thornhill.

“The hydroponic lab has really made everybody come alive in a sense,” said junior Alaina DiSalvo. “It has really brought an environment of, not just awareness of what’s going on in the world, but fun.”

The lab also echoes Pope Francis’ mission to care for God’s creation. Students said they discussed climate change and how to prevent it from happening or how to decrease it.

On hand during the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Auxiliary Bishop James Massa who blessed the lab and sprinkled the space with holy water. Bishop Massa said the project follows the pontiff’s encyclical, ‘Laudato Si.’

“One can be contemporary and deeply committed to the care for the environment and at the same time be rooted in our Catholic values and Catholic faith,” he said.

The indoor hydroponic greenhouse classroom was dedicated to former faculty member Roberta Willard, who taught environmental science at the Park Slope high school in the 1980s before retiring in 2012.

“After 31 years of teaching at Saint Saviour and running beach clean-ups and other environmental community service projects, I am extremely honored to be part of this special day with my Saint Saviour family,” said Willard.

She added that “nature surrounds us and the earth is our home, so the responsibilities we have get passed on from one generation to the other.”

The initiative is a collaboration with NY Sun Works, a non-profit organization devoted to bringing innovative science labs into urban schools.

What the students grow in their new hydroponic classroom 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.