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Pinewood builds greenhouses for STEM project

Does hydroponics work better than traditional soil gardening? Tests involving two greenhouses will help answer this question.

By Jason Borko January 2018

Does hydroponics work better than traditional soil gardening? That’s what PCA’s middle-schoolers are going to find out this year. The school has constructed two greenhouses to test this question. One greenhouse will have a hydroponic system, the other a traditional soil system. Students will use these two growing methods in a head-to-head experiment to find out which is better!

What’s required to grow plants? Sun, soil, and water, right? Actually, not really! In fact, many urban gardeners are turning to another method that cuts out the soil part to save space. It’s called hydroponics. Plants don’t need soil to grow if they get the nutrients they need elsewhere. In a hydroponic system, nutrients are provided to plants in the water, therefore a person living on the 8th floor of an apartment building can grow vegetables and herbs on their balcony.

This project is part of a new STEM initiative at PCA as the school strives for relevance in the 21st century. It includes the following goals:

  1. Build an understanding of the scientific process by actively solving a real-world problem
  2. Develop a model comparing hydroponic and traditional gardening for the purpose of food production in areas with limited land space
  3. Present scientific findings to a panel of school and community members addressing the feasibility of hydroponic food production as a primary or supplemental food source
  4. Minister to local residents in need with fresh produce through Waste Not Want Not, Food Pantry, Salvation Army, and various shelters

STEM is a method of teaching four specific disciplines — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. What separates STEM from traditional science education is the integration of these four subjects in showing students how scientific inquiry can be applied to everyday life. Students combine concepts and computation to solve real-world problems.

Why the shift? Some analysts project the need for 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs by 2020. The manufacturing sector especially faces a large shortage of workers with the necessary skills. And while more than half of all STEM jobs will not require a 4-year degree, many of them will depend on some background knowledge in STEM.

Read more about STEM at What is STEM Education? by Elaine J. Hom at LiveScience.

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