In 2019, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), the Scotts-Miracle Gro Foundation and Hawthorne Gardening company launched the second iteration of the GroMoreGood™ Hydroponics Garden Project. This second round of the project engaged 25 school communities across the country. Coupled with this launch was the release of the curriculum developed in partnership with KidsGardening entitled, Discovering Through Hydroponics. The project not only aimed to spark a passion for gardening and increase experiential learning for students, it also sought to equip teachers and school staff with tools and resources necessary to integrate food and nutrition education in daily classroom activities.
The pandemic has shown the critical role of teachers and school staff members in fostering nourishing and community-driven school environments. This project supported the seamless integration of these food education concepts into the classroom and collaborated with teachers and school staff throughout the process. Students are able to complete core academic requirements through engaging activities like planting, harvesting, tasting and even preparing delicious salads, smoothies and a variety of other snacks.
Trisha Bautista Larson, Program Manager at NFSN, had the wonderful opportunity of visiting two GroMoreGood project school sites in Arizona during Teacher’s Appreciation Week. When asked what she enjoyed the most about having a hydroponics system in the classroom – Ms. Crystal Gutierrez – teacher at Frank Borman Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona said, “the hydroponics program really helped create a sense of culture, responsibility, care and excitement in the classroom.” Ms. Gutierrez expressed how much she loved teaching and getting students involved. Her students help with watering, investigating, and writing about the peppers and tomatoes currently growing in their hydroponic system.
Mr. Dustin Hancock from St. David Unified School District in St. David, Arizona shared that the hydroponics kit has been “a great success supplying lettuce and tomatoes to both the culinary program and cafeteria which supports the K-12 school district.” Mr. Hancock expanded to note that other teachers have also been engaged with their hydroponics and have been excited to cultivate their school garden – so much so that their culinary teacher applied to receive funding from the Arizona Department of Education’s Donors Choose grant to purchase four more smaller hydroponics systems for their school.
During May’s Peer Learning Session - a virtual space dedicated for school participants to share updates and connect with one another about their hydroponics - teachers and staff expressed their appreciation and excitement for participating in the project. Many shared how adults in the school community are also engaged in using the hydroponics system. At Fairfield Elementary in Eugene, Oregon, Ms. Talor Kirk discussed that teachers were visiting her classroom to make themselves lunch with the unit’s leafy greens. Moreover, roughly 650 students were engaged in the hydroponics project at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington. Students enjoyed tasting their vibrant salad greens and tomatoes as part of learning about the school garden. The Peer Learning Session was a great opportunity to pause and share with each other the amazing learnings that they each have experienced as part of the GroMoreGood Hydroponics project.
“It’s never too soon to develop a love of gardening and reap its many mental, physical, emotional and social benefits,” said Katherine Dickens, manager of corporate social responsibility at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “We’re grateful that NFSN and the second iteration of the GroMoreGood Hydroponics project provides elementary-age students the opportunity to learn valuable lessons that can help them for years to come.”
NFSN is thrilled to continue to connect with school participants and support efforts towards sustainability as well as maintain community-level conversations around hydroponics systems and gardening in the classroom.