“It’s a lot of trial and error,” Bethel Park sixth-grader Sydney Kellander said. “It took us many tries before we got a batch of seedlings that were ready to grow in the lab. A lot of the batches didn’t do so well and didn’t grow.” The lab, in this case, is a locker that’s equipped as a hydroponic garden, tended to by Sydney and several of her Neil Armstrong Middle School classmates as they’ve learned how to make plants thrive in something besides soil.
“We found a good recipe, and now all of our work has finally paid off,” she said. Speaking of recipes, the students hosted an early May luncheon featuring what they’d grown, with salads topped by healthy oil-and-vinegar dressing and chickpeas that were roasted by teacher Dave Espinar, whose room is where the hydroponic garden is located.
He explained one of the main purposes for its establishment. “In the research we did, we found that students on average don’t consume vegetables or fruits daily, not even one time throughout their day,” he said. “So it’s really to make vegetables more accessible and to try new recipes.”
Joining Sydney in maintaining the garden, including the crucial task of monitoring pH levels, are fellow sixth-graders Magnolia Cavagnaro, Sydney Glover, Elliott Knibloe, and Ellis Stearman. “Our purpose was to learn a new skill in the garden. We also want to add it to the school lunch for some homegrown vegetables. It kind of transformed from that,” Magnolia said. “And we also in the future may sell these at a farmers’ market.”
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