A hint of pepper contrasts with the sweet smell of greenhouse morning dew in Michael Thomas's seventh-grade science class, and there is electricity in the air only excited kids and UV lights can produce. A curious green ring encircles tables, where 20 young students are seated, talking about, of all things, vegetables.
Beginning five years ago, Thomas, and his seventh-grade classes at Ben Steele Middle School, have been using hydroponics to grow all types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Thomas then takes the garden and incorporates that into his day-to-day lessons.
The goal is to foster excitement and curiosity in what they learn by getting the student's heads out of the books and their hands into gardening. "All kids are hands-on learners, and what is more hands-on than growing your own plant," said Thomas.
The excitement and buzz around Mr. Thomas's class is unmistakable and remarkable. He has done the impossible and inspired his class to not only eat their fruits and vegetables but actually enjoy eating them.
"Ninety percent of what we grow is lettuce, but that is still pretty cool," says fifth-period student Lauren. "Most of the stuff we grow tastes really peppery for some reason," she said with a laugh. For some, this is more than a class project. It is something that they have actually come to care about a great deal, so much so that many will come in after or even before school to take care of their plant.
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