Botany students at Dalton High School designed and constructed hydroponic gardening systems in partnership with the school’s engineering students.
Hydroponics is a way to grow plants and crops without using soil. Plants are typically grown in sand, gravel or just water with added nutrients that help the plants to grow without any soil.
Botany student Erick Garcia said that the project started as an experiment to see how astronauts could grow crops on a planet like Mars.
“We wanted to see what it would take to feed two astronauts living on Mars,” Garcia said. “We also thought about how useful hydroponics are when living in a limited space. For example, if you’re living in an apartment complex, you don’t have your own land or a yard, but you could use hydroponics to grow plants even in a small room.”
Students spent time researching hydroponics and different methods for growing plants using the method. Each student submitted their own designs, and voted on which ones they wanted to actually build.
Annette Buckner, botany teacher at Dalton High School, said that each class built one hydroponics project.
“It was like a contest,” Buckner said. “They had to present their project to the teachers and administrators, and we decided which one was best.”
Ray Okole is one of the students whose design was chosen for the final build. He said the process started with a lot of research.
“We did a lot of research looking into what can work, what can’t work,” Okole said. “We looked into what experiments have succeeded and through trial and error tried to see which ideas would work. We found a design that would use less PVC pipes and be even more efficient.”
Buckner said she was nervous to introduce this project to her students. Her botany classes have never done a hydroponics project before, so she wasn’t sure how successful it would be in the end.
“It was scary for me,” Buckner said. “It’s totally out of my comfort zone to build stuff and step out of that classroom environment. But, I really enjoyed it. I’m excited about next year and what else we’re going to do with the project.”
Garcia said working on this project helped him to learn the value of the hydroponics method and see the impact that it could have on areas of the world where it is more difficult to grow food.
“I’ve learned how incredible it is to be able to use such a little space and grow so much food without any soil,” Garcia said. “I’ve also learned how big of an impact hydroponics could have in parts of the world where they have a lack of food and resources.”
Okole said this project helped him learn how to collaborate with others and work together to achieve a successful final project.
“As someone who is more introverted and doesn’t talk to a lot of people, this project really got me out of my comfort zone,” Okole said. “I didn’t really have much of a choice, but it made me more open to working with people and helping others any way I can. Collaboration is key with any project.”