MONROE COUNTY, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – There’s a program at an elementary school in Monroe County that’s helping students learn the fundamentals of growing crops.
Through the program, students are also starting to eat healthier.
“We put these colors on here to keep track of what pollinator we use on which flower,” says third grader Autumn Smith.
Smith and her peers at Samuel Hubbard elementary have been growing and maintaining plants everyday while they’re at school.
She adds, “If we pollinate enough there will be a little cucumber growing at the edge of the flower. And if the cucumber gets strong enough, the flower will fall off or it will shrivel up and die and the cucumber will grow to be a normal cucumber and one that people can actually eat.”
Third grader Jacob Prue adds, “We need to keep our cucumber plants down at the bottom so they don’t curl all the way up and block all the light.”
The students work inside a hyrdoponic lab where they grow tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, kale, mints, basil and other herbs using water.
“We started as a STEM project one home made little raft and then we applied for some grants and wah-la! Now we have a full hydroponic working garden,” says Indoor Hydroponic Coordinator Rebecca Wachtel.
Students plant seeds, wait for a few weeks until they start to grow and turn into seedlings. Then once they go into the raft, it takes about four to five weeks until they mature to harvesting.
The kindergarteners love the harvesting. it helps them become familiar with the fruits and vegetables.
Kindergartner Ella Smith says,”You have to pull the roots up and then pull off the roots and then that’s all.”
The students are applying what they learn in the classroom by measuring, data collection, scientific process and the growth of the plants.
“When you’re mixing solutions,we have to use adding and subtracting fractions and when you put it in there you have to keep track of how many of the nutrients and formula that you put in there,” fifth grader Seth Davis explains.
Kindergartner Carly Hicks adds,”The middle one was under the light so it had more light than the other ones so it grew taller and that was the one we measure and it was 30 cubes.”
Five water systems including NFT, deep water culture raft and aeroponic tower garden systems are being used to grow the plants hydroponically. Some of the systems were installed by students themselves.
We put in the system and screwed in everything on the bottom and we figured out which sticks to stick in there to make sure it stays supportive,” third grader Maryella Andrews says.
Students grow about 120 heads of lettuce per month and it’s serving teachers, students and people in the community.
Nikki Colwell child attends Samuel Hubbard. She says,”Almost everyday I come and pick a sprig or two of the mint to add to my water. Sometimes even twice a day I’ll come by because I enjoy water so much more with mint in it.”
From planting the seeds, to seeing the growth is keeping these little farmers excited to learn, be responsible and build their interpersonal skills.
Monroe County Schools Superintendent saw the value and how the program impacts STEM and moved it to middle school.