As with many of our projects, I was looking for a science project that connected real-world learning and a positive impact on the world. Our Global Hydroponics Project accomplished both of those tasks. We started with a virtual connection via videoconference with a class in Belgium who were also learning about hydroponics. The Belgium students had already started their hydroponics systems, so they were able to share what they had learned with my 4th graders and show the systems that they had created.
My students then began the process of learning about plant structures and what plants needed for life, researching different types of hydroponic systems and how they were built, and researching the benefits of hydroponic systems in relation to climate change. We did some broader research about the causes and effects of climate change and learned that plants grown in a hydroponic system can use up to 10 times less water than traditionally grown plants, thus helping to conserve water and other resources.
We decided to grow lettuce and began the process of starting the seeds in peat pellets. Each student had their own lettuce seeds in their own peat pellet. As the seeds started to sprout, it was time for students to design and create their own hydroponic systems. Students got in groups of about three or four with other students who were interested in creating the same type of hydroponic system. I provided much of the materials, but students were able to bring in materials needed from home, as well.
After the systems had been built and the seed pellets had been transferred to the hydroponic systems, students took careful measurements and observations over the next few weeks as our lettuce grew. Students reflected about which type of system was allowing for the best growth of the lettuce and why and what they would do differently or change the next time. We connected again with the class in Belgium to update them on our progress. We also connected virtually with classes in Australia and in California to share our learning and to offer that as a possible mitigation to the drought and wildfires caused by climate change that was affecting their communities.
When the lettuce was ready to be harvested, we had a little salad-tasting party in class, and I have never seen kids so eager to eat their vegetables! Click here to see more pictures and details about our Global Hydroponics Project.