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Hydroponic gardens in the classroom
I teach skill building classes to adults with disabilities in Pittsburgh. Our time for outdoor gardening is nearly over, and I have been looking into options for indoor, hydroponic gardens. Has anyone had success with classroom hydroponics? If so, what type of hydroponic system was used ( i.e. ebb & flow, NFT, wick, etc.)). Also, I read that most hydroponic systems need to be tested and monitored everyday --- but what about the weekends, when the hydroponic garden cannot be monitored?
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Hi Rachel. I worked for nine years at a private alternative ed school in NW PA and we used an indoor greenhouse in the winter and elevated planters when the weather was nice. I had kids up to 18 years old and they loved the opportunity to work with plants.
Hydroponics is tough if you aren't there on the weekends because of the risk for damage in case something breaks down or leaks. I've seen successful hydroponics set ups in tech ed where they were set up in a heated greenhouse in the winter with a gravel floor. They used tilapia in a large plastic aquarium with the filtration going into hydroponics and it was a great demo. Labor and tech intensive, though.
I did several things in the classroom over the winter with good results. Tomatosphere http://tomatosphere.org/ was really successful. We used sun tea plastic containers in the indoor greenhouse. We also germinated American Chestnut seeds and planted them later during Arbor Day. We showed the kids "The Martian" trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej3ioOneTy8 and brought in seed potatoes, cut them up and grew potatoes over the winter and tied the activities into some of the NASA sites, especially colonization of Mars. As long as you water the seeds and plants before you leave Friday, you're good to go.
I like the hydroponics idea but there's a lot of challenges, there. Best of luck!
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Thanks for the advice and great ideas. I really appreciate it.
Happy to help, Rachel! Keep up the great hands on activities and ideas. This opens up science and excites students. jj
My 8th graders complete a three week project using a hydroponics system. I bought a couple of 15 quart totes at Wal-Mart, painted them black and had my husband use a saw with a round blade to cut 3 inch holes in the top. I then bought the plastic baskets and coconut coir off of Amazon to hold our plants. Each tote holds 5 plants. The totes take about 2 gallons of water and we used an air stone and aquarium pump to circulate the water. I already had heat mats for growing plants so I just use those to keep the temperature of the water in the appropriate range. We've successfully grown basil and are trying rosemary along with it this year. The kids change the water and re balance the pH once a week. It's pretty self sufficient. The longest I've left it has been four days and it chugged along just fine.
If you're looking for something a little more compact try a company called Versaponics. I'm currently testing one of their smaller systems and it's a lot more compact and only needs an inch of water to run. It works on a misting system.
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