After receiving a grant from the Parent Association, the second grade team of Mrs. Caylyn Wells, Mrs. Jill Jaiswal, and Ms. Kristin Ulrick consulted with Upper School science teacher Mrs. Kimberly Walsh and Dr. Jonathan Roberti, an expert in plant-based nutrition and an ardent proponent of vertical farming systems. The team collaborated to design a detailed plan for the year-long project.
From day one, students have had 100% hands-on involvement. They unpacked the shipping boxes and layed out the pieces of the garden structure, then worked in teams to build the garden’s towers utilizing hand tools. Once the towers were fully constructed, the students planted the seedlings and filled the water reservoirs. When the towers were ready, the classroom lights were dimmed and the towers were turned on to the delighted “wow’s!” from the students and teachers.
The aeroponic garden project will involve multiple subjects throughout the course of the year as students learn about science, math, culinary arts, economics, horticulture, and more. They will study their plants’ growth cycles and learn how to manage their care. In the role of “plant detectives,” they will measure growth, maintain the pH of the water, and study how air and light quality impact the overall health of the plants. The students will trim the plants’ roots and leaves and learn how proper maintenance will lead to successful crop propagation.
Dr. Roberti recently visited the classes to discuss the different qualities of the plants and what natural chemical compounds make each look and taste differently. The students were excited to taste the different greens, which include herbs, leafy greens, and edible flowers, and commented on the variety of flavors they experienced. They then brought a hefty selection of their harvest to Flik, who used them in the dining hall salad bar. Each child was also excited to bring home a selection to share with their families!
By the end of the year, students will hypothesize how aeroponics may be used to solve a real-world problem, or how it may be used to serve a bigger purpose. The classes will work together to propose a feasible solution that they will then launch to an authentic audience.
With the amazing success the classes are having with their aeroponic towers, they are planning to sell some of their next harvest at Thunder Fun Day. Parents should be sure to look for their farmer’s market booth at the fun, all-school event on the Historic Siesta Key Campus on November 10!