The NEA Foundation supports student success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields by helping public school educators work with key partners to build strong systems that prepare students for college, work and life.

Urban Farming programs

Get the free e-book!


Get your copy of the e-book, including lessons learned from urban farming programs in Milwaukee and New York City public schools that can be used to replicate similar programs in schools across the country.





Milwaukee and New York City schools grew successful urban farming programs. Now may be the right time for other school districts to do the same.

While research stresses the importance of hands-on, experiential learning as the best way to spark interest in critical STEM fields, the reality is that little about science instruction in today’s classrooms matches those aspirations. From shortages of trained science teachers to stretched budgets that have eliminated lab equipment, too many teachers—especially those in the urban school systems that serve disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged and minority students–are forced to resort to “paper labs” in the absence of the materials and training needed for real ones.


With the generous support of AT&T, the NEA Foundation has provided grants to and worked with two public school systems and their partners—Milwaukee Public Schools and New York City Public Schools—to strengthen STEM learning around an area of vital interest in both cities: urban farming. In New York, students are working with urban gardens of their own design on school grounds. In Milwaukee, plants and fish grow together in aquaponics systems, large tanks that support both in a symbiotic, sustainable environment.



Read the full case study


The full case study includes an overview of both programs and an examination of key components of their success and lessons learned that can be used to replicate similar programs in schools across the country. 




Want to see urban farming programs in action? Watch the videos below, featuring Milwaukee and New York City students.





STEM-related career opportunities are among the fastest-growing of all occupational clusters. The majority of these jobs will require post-secondary education, yet current projections show that the United States will fall short of demand for workers with post-secondary education by as much as 5 million by 2020.

While minorities make up an increasing percentage of students in the United States, they continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM.

Thanks to support from the NEA Foundation and AT&T, over the last three years, the Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative has been integrated into nine new schools, for a total of 13 Milwaukee public schools. With continued support, five new schools will join the ranks, reaching a total of 1,500 Milwaukee Public School students over two years.


The funding also supports the development of a comprehensive aquaponics curriculum aligned with the newly released math and science standards that will be piloted in the participating schools.


Ultimately, an aquaponics curriculum would be available to all 49 high schools and 125 K-8 schools, with the potential to reach all 78,500 students in the district.

In New York, Project EATS builds farms on school grounds, where students work with experienced farmers to grow, package, and market their products as they acquire skills and expertise in homemade product manufacturing, business and marketing, promotion, and sales. With the new funding, Project EATS will be offered in five additional high schools, potentially reaching more than 1,500 students.


The funding will also be used to standardize a four-year curriculum, with more focus on STEM learning, as well as experiential and peer-to-peer learning.

Learn more about the NEA Foundation's STEM support

Read more about the NEA Foundation and AT&T’s support of popular urban farming initiatives through the expansion of school programs with the Urban School Aquaponics Initiative in Milwaukee and Project EATS, a program of the Active Citizens Project, in New York.



Videos: Why Students Love STEM


Milwaukee, Part 1                       Milwaukee, Part 2



Appalachian Ohio, Part 1             Appalachian Ohio, Part 2


Read the previous STEM report:


Related Content

Global Learning Fellow Craig Beals

Shows Wonders of Science at Gala

Grant Opportunities

Browse Them Now!

4 Big Ideas

To Bring Global Competency to Classroom

Grant Writing Tutorial

Get Started Today

Give Today


Previous Next