Hydroponics Brings Science to Life

posted Apr 18, 2017, 10:27 AM by Christy Izmirian [ updated Apr 21, 2017, 7:38 PM ]


"Can we grow food on Mars?" science teacher Amanda Price asked her students in early February. The question launched a large-scale, hands-on project for 150 eighth grade students at Carmody Middle School.

The class worked on growing chard, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, spinach and seven types of basil with no soil or natural sunlight. Thanks to $5000 of in-kind donations from Lakewood business Way to Grow, $1000 from the Carmody family, and the support of school administrators, fellow teachers and the all-important financial secretary, Ms. Price was able to construct two large indoor growing stations. "And a ton of help from my husband," she adds, "he was great."

"My favorite part was learning about hydroponics," shared on student. "We garden at home, so building on that was really cool." "Plants can grow without soil as long as they have nutrients," added a classmate. In addition to learning to grow plants using nutrient-filled pellets and artificial light, the lessons related to the hydroponic growing project extended to genetics, variation, mitosis, cloning, chemistry, and more. The tie to Mars also enabled space, force and motion, energy, weather, and how matter responds to energy to the semester.

The culmination of the project was April 14 when the students harvested some of their plants to make pesto and then eat the fruits of their labor. With a task of learning "how chemicals help us understand our body" the students moved through stations to first process each plant, then use the periodic table of elements to identify how it might affect the body when eaten. "I don't like the chard," piped up one group member. "Oh, I do," chimed in another. "I want everyone to a least try at a bit of everything," Ms. Price advises the class.

When asked her thoughts on the how the project went, Price glows, "This really made learning come alive for the kids; for so many these are brand new experiences." Now that it's clear food can be grown on Mars, what's next? "We are going to grow algae for fuel next year," she shares excitedly. "I've heard it grows really well with our set up and the science behind it will be exciting."

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