By Hana Halff ‘21
Walking through the rooftop garden and greenhouse at Heschel takes students, if only momentarily, away from the stress of school. Figs, tomatoes, peppers, basil, kohlrabi, and other lush produce surround you. With more members and projects than ever, the Gardening and Greenhouse Club is an exciting place to explore the interconnection between the sciences and the social issues that affect the daily lives of countless individuals worldwide.
Jon Greenberg, chemistry and biology teacher and leader of the club, planned the school’s greenhouse and recruited students. Since then, some five years have passed, and the club has grown immensely. As leader of the club, Jon continues to listen to different student ideas and to manage experiments and projects. One idea the club has for this school year is to add berry bushes to the garden so that students from the lower school can pick them while they play. They also want to start selling flowers on Fridays, allowing students to bring bouquets home for Shabbat.
Perhaps one of the Gardening and Greenhouse Club’s most ambitious goals is to repair their aquaponics system before the end of the school year. According to Jon, aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and fish farming. It is essentially a system in which water is circulated between two different tanks by a pump. The first tank is on the floor and has fish in it, and the second holds plants suspended in a growing medium higher up. The waste water from the fish tank fertilizes the plants, which in turn decontaminate the fish water for reuse in the fish tank. The fish and the plants exist symbiotically in a sort of miniature ecosystem.
While based in our school, the Gardening and Greenhouse Club doesn’t solely focus on projects that serve the Heschel community. The club advocates for many social issues affecting the broader community as well. Last year the club had an herb sale before Thanksgiving, where it raised money for Harlem Grown. Harlem Grown is a non-profit organization whose aim is to motivate children to lead healthy lives through hands-on education in farming, sustainability, and nutrition. Earlier this year the club also raised money for a garden in Houston that was damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
Joseph Icikson, an active club member of this year’s graduating class, reflected on his experiences in the club. “Through the Gardening and Greenhouse Club, I’ve learned about important social issues related to food security and access to healthy fresh produce,” the senior said.
Jon summarized, “We’re always looking for new members and there’s plenty to do. It’s a great time to get involved.”