BLAIRSBURG - Taking advantage of an opportunity, NEH's Fifth Graders became hydroponic gardeners this year.
At the beginning of the school year, teacher John Seiser realized that with the NEH High School students attending classes in Webster City, the FFA greenhouse would be vacant. The greenhouse's availability offered a unique opportunity for the fifth grade science class.
With the approval of the school administration, the students harvested several different heirloom fruit and vegetable seeds from Seiser's home garden last fall.
Lexi Nichols, Faith Anderson and Kaylee Oskvig work in the NEH greenhouse where the fifth grade class raised hydroponic tomatoes and lettuce.
Kyle Chieng waters plants in the NEH greenhouse where the fifth-grade science class has raised hydroponic lettuce and tomatoes this year.
"We spent time discussing Heirloom vs. GMO Hybrids and why both are very important in feeding the world population," said Seiser. "I really wanted our students to understand the importance that science plays in improving agriculture as well as the benefits of organic farming methods."
After learning how to preserve the seeds until planting, the students were ready to get their hands dirty - sort of. That's because in addition to learning traditional growing methods, Seiser introduced the concept of hydroponic gardening. Using only water, the students were able to grow lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
"I felt it was important for students to see different ways of growing food using different growing mediums and their benefits," explained Seiser.
Throughout the course, the class discussed the possible careers associated with agriculture, he said.
"We discussed everything from being an agronomist for a large corporation to running your own organic market garden," said Seiser.
Through the process, students learned the structure of living things, understanding life cycles, environmental interaction and plant adaptation.
In addition, they witnessed germination, the effects of photosynthesis and the difference in growth results through growing condition variables.
"Growing in the greenhouse was a very fun and educational experience because we were able to see the plants as they were growing," said fifth grader Lexi Nichols. "I also liked how we used different ways of growing plants."
The project also incorporated state math standards which measured time, temperature, calculating space and interpreting collected data, said Seiser.
With a greenhouse filled with plants and tomatoes on the vine, Seiser said he hopes the fifth grade can hold a plant sale at the end of the school year. The proceeds of this year's sale will help fund next year's project, said Seiser.
The Fifth Grade Farm will tackle its final project of the year by incubating turkey eggs, said Seiser.
"We will be watching the embryo growth and development through candling of eggs," said Seiser. The students will be expected to identify the part of the egg and its function. "They are due to hatch around the 28th of May, so we will see how this goes."
Looking forward to next year's science class, the Hamilton County Farm Bureau has donated a compost tumbler to the fifth graders.
"We are going to expand this project into a school-wide composting project in the future and teach the benefits of using organic matter in growing plants," said Seiser.