Early this month, Shore Elementary Magnet School in the heart of Ybor City, held a dedication to celebrate its new STEAM Lab made possible by the Brink Family Foundation. The lab consists of a fenced-in hydroponic garden that is already filled with fresh herbs.
STEAM is an educational approach to learning that incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum into each lesson, uses real world experiences and also adds the “A” for arts education.
The community has truly come together to provide students at Shore with the resources they need to have an educational environment rich in STEAM education. Along with the Brink Family Foundation, Eric and Trish Wall, founders of ArchAngel Farms, donated time and supplies to ensure the students and garden flourish.
“Eric and Trish donated an aquaponics system for my classroom. They really are amazing people and give so much— a true inspiration,” Jaime Pappalardo, 5th grade teacher at Shore said about the Walls.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Researchers are looking more closely into how hydroponic gardens can solve our future food problems, as our population increases the less land we have to grow food.
“We have to find creative ways to keep our food source growing and what better way than teaching our students here in Ybor City that they too can grow crops and learn to live off our land, in the tight spaces we have,” said Cheri Bollinger, Principal at Shore Elementary Magnet School.
Each teacher involved in the program will have a specific planter in the STEAM Lab they can use with their classes for long term investigations and lessons. If students are planting a tomato plant outside in the garden, or inside the classroom, they will be able to collect data to see which plant grows the tallest, has the largest growth rate, and see the effects of sunlight on the plant.
“This is a year of growth, to test the waters and gather more ideas to make each year bigger and better— our goal is for the students to engage and work together in the garden, absorb the knowledge and feel successful with their findings,” said Amanda Crane, 5th grade teachers at Shore.
Once vegetables, herbs and fruits are grown in the garden they will be sold at a school fundraiser, which will benefit the STEAM programs— allowing teachers to purchase materials and activities for their classes.
The Brink Family Foundation also made it possible to take the STEAM Lab to the next level by donating additional funds to purchase solar panels, so the garden can be self-sustaining. This will save money since electricity will not be needed to water or fertilize. This will also allow students to learn about renewable and non-renewable resources and solar power.
Another goal of this program is to teach students how food gets from the farm to the store and to help them learn the importance of healthy eating.
To achieve this goal, Shore will have a Harvest of the Month program, where students will learn about a different fruit or vegetable that is harvested in Florida and lessons will be integrated into all subject areas.
Ms. Crane hopes that exposing the students to fresh produce will encourage them to go home to their families and teach them how to grow a garden, take pride in their efforts and prepare a delicious dish.
To further enhance the outdoor learning environment at Shore, Jacobs, an engineering and construction firm in Tampa, created an Outdoor Literacy Classroom Reading Garden. This space will work perfectly as a data collection space, so students can sit and write in their science notebooks.
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this vision come to life. The hydroponic garden will allow students to make daily observations, and practice their critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration skills. This is a great real-world lesson in application and sustainability that students will get to experience each day!
To learn more about Shore Elementary Magnet School of the Arts visit, http://shore.mysdhc.org/
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