Arkensas students meld plants and fish in urban garden

Hydroponic gardening at White Hall High School got its start during the 2019-20 school year, but this spring students expanded their urban garden to include aquaponics.

The aquaponic garden is part of the school's Future Farmers of America program and was made possible with a $500 grant from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture's State School Garden program, said Hanna Davis, the state program's manager.

A larger 40-gallon aquaponic container, which was purchased with the grant money, hasn't been set up yet, but already students are growing plants and goldfish in the same containers.

Kisia Weeks, who also teaches welding and conservation, spoke about her department's existing two 10-gallon hydroponic gardens. "The kids run it all. They're excited about it and it's a good learning tool. It teaches students to be innovative and creative."

Sophie Weaver, a junior at White Hall High, said her favorite part of the Survey of Agriculture class is taking care of the fish in the aquaponics system and watching the plants grow from seed to harvested produce. "The garden gives me the chance to learn about plant science in a hands-on way that I haven't had the chance to before," Weaver said.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture's State School Garden program awarded grants to 52 educational institutions around the state this year, and these included early child care facilities to high schools, Davis said.

"Some of the schools have had gardens for a while, and some are just starting out, and the money can be used to buy seeds or plants and garden equipment," Davis said.

The idea behind the program is "to promote a variety of goals," such as hands-on learning or giving students a closer look at how their food is produced, she said.

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