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Cultivating Curiosity: Hydroponic Gardening Adventures with Third and Fourth Graders

Students preparing the hydroponic tanksHands-on experiences serve as powerful tools for fostering curiosity and understanding at The College School. Imagine a classroom where students delve into the wonders of plant growth, without the constraints of soil. Welcome to the world of hydroponic gardening, where third and fourth graders at The College School embark on an exciting journey of discovery in the Grossman Family Greenhouse and Gardens.

Exploring Hydroponics

Hydroponic gardening offers a unique approach to cultivation, bypassing traditional soil-based methods in favor of nutrient-rich water solutions. At TCS, this concept opens doors for scientific exploration, where students can observe seeds sprouting and roots extending into water-filled containers, all while learning about the essential elements plants need to thrive.

The Greenhouse Classroom: Hands-on Learning

Guided by John McElwain and Max Bruch, our Greenhouse and Gardens faculty, students witness firsthand the impact of light, temperature, and nutrients on plant growth in a controlled environment. The transparent walls blur the lines between indoors and outdoors, allowing natural light to flood in and energize students’ botanical experiments.

Science in Action: Exploring Plant Biology

For our students’ hydroponic gardening lessons, every stage from germination to harvest becomes a hands-on lesson. Students measure nutrient solutions, monitor pH levels, and adjust environmental conditions to optimize plant growth. Through trial and error, they develop problem-solving skills and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between plants and their environment.

Students preparing their nutrient water solution

“Hydroponic gardening transforms the classroom into a living laboratory, where students explore fundamental concepts of plant biology,” said John McElwain, Director of Sustainability at The College School. “They investigate root systems, photosynthesis, and the role of nutrients in sustaining plant life. Through observations and experiments, they uncover the mysteries of plant growth and gain a newfound appreciation for the complexity of natural ecosystems.”

Cultivating Responsibility and Teamwork

Beyond scientific inquiry, hydroponic gardening cultivates important life skills such as responsibility and teamwork. Students take ownership of their hydroponic system, ensuring plants receive proper care and attention. They collaborate with classmates, sharing tasks and pooling resources to support the collective success of their botanical endeavors. 

“I got so excited about hydroponic gardening that I did research about the best nutrient solutions for certain types of plants,” said Tristan, current fourth grader. “It was a really fun project.”

Harvesting Success: Celebrating Growth and Achievement

The culmination of the hydroponic gardening journey is a harvest, ripe with lessons and rewards. Students recently harvested lettuce that they brought to Nick Casby, The College School’s chef with FLIK Dining Services, to incorporate into a school lunch for the community. Later this season, the students will harvest purple opal basil and tomatoes. 

Student grew lettuce, basil and tomatoes

Hydroponic gardening offers a dynamic platform for our third and fourth graders to explore the wonders of science, cultivate essential life skills, and forge connections with the natural world. Within the nurturing embrace of a greenhouse classroom, young minds blossom alongside their hydroponic gardens, sowing the seeds of curiosity and growth that will flourish for years to come.

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