Harvesting the Benefits of Hydroponics: Highlights from the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project
Preschoolers getting ready to taste their hydroponically-grown lettuce. Source: San Pedro Elementary, San Rafael, California, March 2020 Final Survey
National Farm to School Network in partnership with Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and collaboration with KidsGardening is excited to release Exploring Hydroponics: A Classroom Lesson Guide. This lesson guide is the product of the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project and includes basic how-to information for growing plants hydroponically in the classroom, lesson plans to help students learn through hands-on investigations, construction plans for simple hydroponic setups, and additional reference materials to support educators. The lessons are designed to align with third through fifth grade Next Generation Science Standards but can be adapted for both younger and older students and those with different abilities. The lessons are sequenced so that each topic builds upon the previous topics but the activities can also be used independently, in any order.
The Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project, launched in the fall of 2019, was aimed at integrating indoor hydroponics growing systems into systemically under resourced schools across the country. National Farm to School Network supported hydroponics experts, KidsGardening, in developing the curriculum guide, Exploring Hydroponics: A Classroom Lesson Guide. During the 2019-2020 school year, the curriculum was used in conjunction with Scotts Miracle-Gro’s AeroGarden hydroponic kits in 15 schools across California, New York and Washington D.C. In addition to introducing hydroponics into their science, technology engineering and math (STEM) classrooms, pilot schools participated in peer learning and networking calls to share successes and challenges with each other.
By March 2020, a total of 2204 students were reached through the pilot project with gardening or farm to school activities that align with Next Generation Science Standards across New York, Washington D.C., and California, and 1954 students were directly engaged in lessons or activities using the hydroponics growing system. Additionally, between September 2019 and March 2020, there was a perceived 20% increase in student interest and a 15% increase in adult interest (teachers, administration, teaching aides, community members) in gardening as a direct result of the hydroponics system and Exploring Hydroponics curriculum.
Pilot schools cited many observed benefits and positive outcomes due to the hydroponics curriculum and growing systems for students, families and adults in their respective school communities. These include:
|Benefits for Students||Benefits for Students, Families, Educators and Community Members|
Teacher, Helene, leads students in exploring the hydroponics garden and learning about how far away their food comes from. Source: P.S. 32 The Belmont School, New York, January 2020 Site Visit
Strategies for better curriculum integration of opportunities to encourage at-home hydroponics and gardening
- Adapting curriculum for younger ages
- More opportunities to support sustained implementation (e.g., to purchase pods and other necessary resources)
- Incorporating more multimedia tools or approaches within curriculum (e.g., instructional video)
- Collecting and disaggregating data based on race and income (e.g., which students are more likely to have access to gardening at home?)
- More opportunities to engage families
Students giving presentations to their classmates about hydroponics. Source: P.S. 214, Bronx, New York, March 2020 Final Survey