Teachers across the United States are engaging their students in hands-on, project-based education through hydroponics. But what is hydroponics exactly, and why would your school need a school hydroponics program?
What is School Hydroponics?
The word hydroponics comes from a combination of the Greek word hydro, which means “of water,” and the Greek word ponos, which means “work.”
Hydroponics is the science of cultivating plants in a nutrient-rich solution instead of soil, where the water does the “work” of delivering nutrients to the plant’s roots. Because the roots are bathed in a nutrient solution, there is constant nourishment for the plants.
Now that you know what hydroponics is, let’s jump into why your school should start a school hydroponics program!
1. Grow Fruits and Vegetables in Your Classroom
Don’t have the space, time or money to start a school garden at your school? That’s no problem!
With school hydroponics, you can grow tasty fruits and veggies with your students right in your classroom. Start with a low-tech, low-cost hydroponics system that you can build yourself and watch as your students observe the entire lifecycle of a plant from start (seed) to finish (tasty produce) right before their eyes. Check out our DIY hydroponics tutorials to choose an easy hydroponics project that your students will love.
2. Engage Students with Hands-on STEM Engineering Projects
If your students love learning STEM standards through projects, they’ll love it when you introduce hydroponics. School hydroponics presents SO many learning opportunities from science and engineering to math to language arts and social studies. Because students can build hydroponics units themselves (either individually or as a group), they’ll feel a unique sense of ownership and pride as they grow their own plants. Teachers have told us that their students have so much fun, they don’t even realize they’re learning critical STEM skills
3. Grow Fruits and Veggies Year-Round
School hydroponic gardens don’t require soil and can be kept indoors—pretty cool, right?
Not only is it amazing for students, but that makes them the perfect solution for schools in areas that get a bit chilly during the winter. While you may not be able to grow plants outside in the snow, your hydroponics units will remain perfectly happy inside with you. Because hydroponics can be climate-controlled, school hydroponics make food production and education possible any time of the year in any weather condition.
Plus, hydroponics also make it possible to grow in locations where poor soil conditions or limited space prevent growing plants traditionally in soil.
4. Grow More Produce for School Farmers Markets
Hydroponics has been called the future of farming for good reason. The growing method can grow more plants in less space compared to traditional outside gardens. Hydroponic units make use of vertical space, resulting in increased planting density and food production.
For example, one fifth-grade school hydroponic systems can grow up to 208 plants—the same amount of food as FOUR regular garden beds would produce. That means you can grow more plants, get more produce and sell more at your school farmers markets.
And as an extra bonus, plants also grow up to 2x more quickly with hydroponics versus soil-based gardening because they get all the light and nutrients they need.
5. Manage Everything Easily
Most hydroponic systems are kept indoors, which allows students to improve plant production by controlling the temperature and lighting schedules. Students can also control the pH and nutrients of the nutrient solution to make sure plants get the exact nourishment they need. This also presents numerous learning opportunities for math and chemistry along with critical thinking and team work.
6. Get the Whole School Involved for a Comprehensive Program
Because of its adaptability, school hydroponics can be integrated into every grade level. With the right support, materials and curriculum (like you’ll find with Green Our Planet’s Hydroponics STEM Program), you can create a seamless learning experience for your students from kindergarten to fifth grade. Imagine how cool it would be for students to start off their STEM education learning about plant science basics and building simple Kratky hydroponics units, and then building off of that knowledge each year. At the end of their elementary school experience, they’ll be selling hydroponics produce that they grew in a commercial unit to their community.
Get free hydroponics lessons, aligned to Next Generation Science Standards!
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