Earlier this fall, an opening celebration was held to unveil a new greenhouse built over the summer at Troy High School. The greenhouse project—to be used by Troy High School and Troy Middle School students and students participating in the Rensselaer STEP (Science and Technology Entry Program)—is a collaboration between Rensselaer, Troy City School District, and the community. The project is meant to engage young people in developing sustainable communities. It will provide project-based learning opportunities related to sustainable agriculture for RPI STEP students in the Troy City School District, as well as the Troy High School Environmental Club and Troy High School and Troy Middle School science classes.

The project was funded in support of RPI STEP, a program funded by the New York State Department of Education since 1986. RPI STEP encourages underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students in grades 7 – 12 to pursue STEM degrees and licensed professions. The program currently serves 132 students in the Capital Region, of which 30 percent attend school in the Troy City School District.

“The idea for the project started in the spring of 2015,” said Cynthia Smith ’96, who serves as assistant dean of students and director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships at Rensselaer. Smith noted that Rensselaer alumnus Sean Wilson ’15, who is also a Troy High School graduate, had a vision of establishing a community greenhouse that would engage young people in developing sustainable communities.

“We are always looking for new and creative project-based learning opportunities to engage our underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students in STEM,” Smith said. “The greenhouse-related education that RPI STEP students have been able to participate in has allowed students to develop and present research projects related to urban agriculture, local farming, and aquaponics—while also connecting them to area organizations involved in the field. The greenhouse project serves as a wonderful example of a great collaboration between Rensselaer, the Troy School District, and the local community. This is our way of planting a seed early enough in the minds of today’s students to pursue STEM, because we believe that this process starts long before a student reaches college.”

“The Troy City School District is so proud to be part of this collaborative effort with RPI STEP to bring more project-based learning to our students,” said Donna Watson, Troy CSD assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “The greenhouse opens a world of possibilities to help us achieve our mission of providing a strong educational and social foundation to graduate all students college- and career-ready. Not only does it provide hands-on learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, it also offers our students opportunities to use what they grow to help meet the needs of others in our community. Students will have the chance to make a difference right here on Troy’s campus that could lead them to solve the larger environmental issues of our time.”

Additional funders include the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, the Junior League of Albany, the Seymour Fox Memorial Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation, and Wicked Smart Apparel. Troy CSD also secured a grant from the Lowes Toolbox for Schools program. In total, the outside funding raised in support of this project was $57,500.