A Bronx Ode to the Earth


An indoor vertical farm is the newest classroom addition at PS 85 in the Bronx! Thanks to our partnership with AeroFarms, a world leader in vertical farming and working to transform agriculture for people and the planet, the school community is now heading into Earth Day with a place to explore more green education. 

Seeds and nutrients start off the journey to fresh and incredibly local food. WITS Chef Yesenia Arrunategui helped the school install the vertical farm in February, and students are now getting familiar with the garden and plantings. Students are currently growing microgreens and various herbs like cilantro. Chef Yesenia said excitedly, “They have been harvesting from the garden weekly!” 

By bringing a farming unit into an urban school environment, the goal is for every student to have a personal experience with the growing unit through education, harvesting, tasting, and cooking, using produce from the harvest. The indoor vertical farm will be a resource for Chef Yesenia to use in WITS Labs and nutrition lessons, with upcoming Greens Labs in May. The classroom will continue to serve as a space for students to understand concepts like sustainability and where food comes from. 

PS 85X’s bulletin board features students working with the farming unit. 

Hands-on experiences like these are a core part of our Green for Kids programming, where gardening meets environmental sustainability education. We believe that children who are connected to their environment will become aware of the impact of their choices on the world around them. Kids learn about creating healthy, balanced relationships with themselves and the world. “WITS Greens Labs and BITS are versatile: the connection to cooking and nutrition from the garden is there, and we also teach students where food comes, foods from different cultures, and food access and sustainability,” said WITS National Program Director Marion Williams. “Green for Kids impacts students beyond the classroom. We teach them how to be good consumers and shop well, too. Kids love learning how to look at produce labels and the quality of food they see at the supermarket,” she continued. The greens that PS 85X students are able to grow hands-on is a crucial part of developing an understanding and respect for how food grows and affects the environment. 

To celebrate Earth Day this April 22nd, any action big or small makes a difference! For planters, check out this list of native plants and learn why it’s important to support native plants in your garden. Also consider researching community gardens in your area, participating in a litter pick-up, or going to greenmarkets near you to source seasonal and mostly local produce. 

Remember, the most important thing you can do on Earth Day (and every day) is to take the time to step outside and appreciate the beauty of nature!