Last year, Mr. Gilbert, a 5
grade teacher at Brayton, received an SEF grant for the purchase of a Tower Garden. The Tower Garden stands 5 feet tall, holds 20 plants, and can produce all kinds of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs; its small footprint fits easily into any classroom. Mr. Gilbert's students are working on their second harvest, and finding new ways to use it every day. The ultimate goal is to create enough produce to be used in the cafeteria, and to incorporate more STEM based projects such as having students create cages to grow tomatoes and other vegetables.
The garden uses state-of-the-art vertical aeroponic growing system. This system recycles nutrients and water, using less than 10% of the water used by a traditional garden. NASA research also suggests that aeroponic growing takes about half the time of traditional growing. The primary learning objective is to study plants at a deeper level, as well as to learn about new technologies that are bettering our environment. It also introduces students to the joys of growing their own produce, no matter the weather.
The students each have special jobs tending to the garden and get a first-hand look at how plants grow from the seed starter - to seedling - to mature plant. With the vertical aeroponic technology, the plants will grow in less time - the first harvest was ready to eat within four weeks.
Mr. Gilbert shared that "it is important to not only introduce the students to the new innovated systems put in place in the world today, but to encourage them to try new things and eat clean."
The classroom uses the garden to measure temperature, pH levels, and measure the plant growth. The children can then use the data for production of charts, graphs, draw conclusions and make adjustments based on their findings. Then, the children actually get to sample everything they have grown in class. More importantly, it teaches them that produce can be easily grown and promotes healthy eating and the benefits to growing your own food. With each harvest, they are learning new ways to use the garden to maximize its potential to create more produce.