Hydroponic Herbage Harvest at HT
Inclusion of our special education students has been a big goal of ours at Holy Trinity secondary school. I teach a classroom of students with Autism and we wanted our students to get involved with our school wide gardening and sustainability initiative. My students and I worked with multiple staff members and classes to come up with a year round gardening plan which involved a hydroponic tower. With the Canadian climate it’s obviously difficult to garden for a good chunk of the school year so our school gardening team devised a plan to sprout herbs and vegetables that we could then transplant into a hydroponic tower to allow for an indoor gardening option for the whole school year. This would allow for the growth of produce that can be used by our special education classes and many other classes in the school to provide unique learning opportunities and integration. Our plan was to use this hydroponic tower as a new way to access curriculum goals related to math, science, cooking, life skills and sustainability.
We have 3 special education classes in our school who were directly involved with this project. Two of these classes are specifically for students with Autism – our school board has CASA classrooms (Center for Autism Spectrum Assistance) that are designed for individual programming and support for students with ASD. Our LLS (Learning Life Skills) students were also involved in this initiative. We all worked on growing seedlings, transplanting vegetables and herbs into the hydroponic tower, assembling the hydroponic tower (tomato cage, grow lights and pump system) and now maintaining the tower (pollinating, pruning, testing pH, refilling the base with water, adding nutrients, etc.)
Another teacher in our high school and her students (a geography and a French class) helped with the research and planning portion to figure out the logistics of the hydroponic tower system. They looked at costs associated with the start up of the hydroponic tower, sustainability impact, optimal growing conditions for the ecosystem of the tower and ideal plants to grow in it. If it wasn’t for covid times, we would have loved to have all our classes work closely together on the whole project but this can be a continuing goal for the future. The plan is to work with science classes, food & nutrition, geography and really as many other classes as we can in the school. Now that we have the tower up and running, we can aim for this and have many classes involved in the many benefits and learning opportunities the hydroponic tower has to offer.
Reflection & Celebration
This project ended up being a huge success! We now have several vegetables and herbs growing like crazy in our hydroponic tower that we can use year round and for years to come. This will provide amazing life skills learning opportunities for our special education students to access their alternative learning goals in a whole new way. We are thrilled to use our tower and the growth of produce to further our student’s learning about healthy eating, sustainability, plant care & growth, cooking skills and math & science learning. It will provide a whole new avenue for our special education alternative learning program! Once covid is cleared up, it will also provide multiple opportunities to work with other students in the school body to form new social interactions and learning for our students with Autism. We are so excited to utilize this hydroponic tower to support continual integration of our special education students and create a sustainable school atmosphere.