Toledo high school students finalists in hydroponics contest

Toledo Middle School students have been named as a finalist in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest for hydroponics. They have received $15,000 for their accomplishments and could garner even more money if they go farther in this amazing competition.

Asking the students a few questions, they stated this about what they hope to learn, "Learn how plants can be grown in just water and how to build a hydroponic system." They also stated they are having fun "Doing hands-on tasks and working with my friends is the most fun."

When asked why she brought hydroponics to the school, Ms. Stead, the instructor, stated, "TMS received a grant from the EPA, administered through the Chehalis Basin Educational Consortium, about 7 years ago, for the construction of the original hydroponic units in the windows. The purpose at the time was to grow native plants for the Old Pacific HWY trail. Hydroponics was selected for several reasons: sustainability of a soil-less farming method, space-saving, controlled production, students could use the systems for their own created investigations, and students could learn how to create the system at home.

Originally, the growing systems were an aquaponic set-up; meaning fish provided the key nutrients to plants through fish waste and the plants cleaned the water of nitrates for the health of the fish. Due to COVID, we are unable to have fish in the classroom and switched to an artificially created nutrient solution using commercial fertilizer, this is hydroponics. On a trip to Jackson Hole, WY two years ago, I saw a four-story, glass building, which was a commercial food crop application of hydroponics."

They are being taught very important information, she continued, "I hope that students will learn how to sustainably grow food crops in their home through the cycling of materials. I also want students to have a sense of accomplishment and pride in knowing they made a difference in the community through their hard work and perseverance. Maybe someday, somewhere nearby, there will be a glass building growing food year-round, using only water, nutrients, and lights."

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