As part of an education program, students in Melbourne are learning how to grow their own edible plants on an urban farm that has replaced the canteen’s vending machine. The program, run by social enterprise Farmwall, is designed to teach youth about sustainable urban farming as a method of mitigating climate change and improving food security and health. Students at Hume Central Secondary College will care for the plants while learning about biodiversity, nutrition, and wellbeing through hands-on school incursions.

The indoor vertical farm grows radish ‘microgreens‘ (highly nutritious immature vegetables harvested while young) and also includes a mushroom-growing system. Students plant seedlings in soggy, hemp-filled pots and nurture them as they flourish into edible greens. Within a few short weeks, students can reap their reward, eating the veggies with their lunch or taking them home to their families.

By turning the experience of growing food into a rewarding endeavor, students become invested in the process, deepening their engagement in the educational aspects of the activity. While caring for the plants, students discover how they are grown in a closed-loop ecosystem that utilizes the natural relationship between fish and plants. The installation includes a fish tank that uses aquaponics (a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics) to turn fish waste and nitrifying bacteria into nutrients for the plants.

Debra Kimpton, the teacher at Hume Central Secondary College, told Planet Ark the response from the students involved in the program has been extremely positive. “Students are amazed and excited. They love watching the fish and learning about their connection to the microgreens. Some take ownership of their microgreens to the next level. They want to plant them to watch the full life cycle,” Debra said.

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