High School Environmental Science Take Home Kit Success Story
With many students learning virtually from their homes this school year, fun, engaging and hands-on projects can be hard to come by. Dublin Jerome Environmental Science teacher, Ashley Dulin-Smith filled this gap by giving her 50 high school students two educational garden projects to do at home.
To make these projects possible, Dulin-Smith gathered materials from donors and made an Amazon wish list that successfully drew requested packages to her doorstep, sometimes sent by strangers who had happened to see the wish list. With the help of these donations, her 50 high school students who have been engaged in hands-on learning throughout the winter!
1. Aquaponics Kits
These easy to assemble aquaponic kits grow real plants in student’s homes, teaching them about the nitrogen cycle, how ammonia breaks down into nitrite then nitrate. As the projects continue, the class discusses appropriate ways to harvest, propagate and continue to grow basil. Students have been given additional materials to continue growing and expand their gardens. The kids are finding joy in seeing the progress and have really formed bonds with their fish. Some students and families have enjoyed this so much that they have purchased large aquariums to expand the project and grow additional food. The ultimate goal is to teach students how to really appreciate the fresh farm to table applications in any environment.
All you need is:
- 1/2 gallon mason jar
- aquarium gravel/rocks for the bottom of the jar
- rockwool cube
- net pot
- clay beads
- plastic plant
- fish food
- And a fish!
The students were provided with all materials besides the fish. The class monitors the ‘tank’ together and water tests weekly.
Dulin-Smith has had great feedback from parents, “they’re telling me that their kids are really enjoying the projects and the fish have become part of their families. We do these projects through a screen but are doing it together. The kids are taking ownership for these and truly learning without me just telling them about it,” said Dulin-Smith.
To begin the project, students started growing basil in rockwool cubes under desk lamps or lights they had at home. Once the students had established blooming plants, they transferred the rockwool cube to the net pot containing clay beads and placed it in the opening of the mason jar. Currently, students are starting to harvest and propagate their first basil. Most students are transferring the clippings to plastic garden pots with soil (all were provided in initial kits) and will continue to monitor the plants in the aquaponics jar.
2. Compost Kits
The compost bins have a multitude of benefits for the classroom. We start out by teaching the process of composting (using newspaper, red wigglers, etc.) together as a class. We spent a couple of days virtually building the bins to get them ready for the worms. We calculate the appropriate amount of newspaper, water and how much food to add. Once the bins were prepared, I had students pick up a bag of worms from school and they added them to their bins. The students feed their worms weekly, make observations and submit pictures every couple of weeks. As the bins start to change, we discuss how the compost can be used. This year students can donate their compost back to the school garden, can add it to home gardens, or continue their bins at home. Students record how much waste they divert and at the end of the year, we discuss the benefits of diverting the waste and not sending it to the landfill. In years past we have toured the landfill which helps solidify the benefits of composting.
Students were given the following materials:
- 16-quart plastic tub
- The Columbus Dispatch donated a truck full of newspaper.
- 250 red wigglers per student
- A big bag of garden soil
- A mediums to grow plants in
- Tower Gardens by Juice Plus donated the rockwool cubes and the seed packets for each student. (We have 3 Tower Gardens in our classroom)
Dulin-Smith assembled each of the 50 compost kits with these materials and students picked them up at school. During class, they went through steps of how to build the compost bin and now Dulin-Smith and the students feed worms together, record observations, talk about any issues and work through them together during class. The goal is for students to either use compost for their own gardens or bring them back to school garden and plant together.
For questions about these projects contact email@example.com and tag @OhioFarm2School on Facebook if your class, club, or group tries these or other growing activities! For more information and resources on hands on growing in schools, contact your county’s Ohio State University Extension Office here.