Stanton students learn about hydroponics

Fourth-graders Memphis Goad and Avah Reed are among the students learning about hydroponics at Stanton Elementary School. The equipment was acquired through a prior Ohio Farm Bureau grant, but was put into use over the past month. The 51-member class is currently growing tomato plants using the water-based method and adding to their crop of vegetation in the school greenhouse. Lettuce, spinach, corn and other produce are also being grown and will be taken to the cafeteria to be consumed by the entire school. (Submitted photo)

HAMMONDSVILLE — Fourth-graders in Tammy Saphore’s science class at Stanton Elementary are expanding their knowledge of agriculture with a new hydroponics project.

About 51 students are growing tomato plants in specialized buckets at the school’s greenhouse, and the produce should be ready this spring for consumption. Saphore said the equipment was part of an Ohio Farm Bureau grant the school received around 2014 that totaled $3,541 and she had agreed to include the water-based growing mechanism in her lesson plans. A portion of the funding was used to repair the glass panes in the hothouse with the remainder used on the hydroponics system, a misting system and other greenhouse supplies.

She said the tomatoes were planted in January in seven buckets which include watering tubes to hydrate the vegetation. The buckets include baskets filled with rocks in which the plants are placed. Nutrient-enriched water circulates throughout the rocks and into the roots, helping the fruit grow. Students monitor and water the plants when needed and have worked with volunteers from the Jefferson County Master Gardeners program on the project. At the conclusion, the tomatoes and other produce created in the greenhouse will be taken to the cafeteria and used in salads to feed the entire school.

“We have four types of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, spinach, chard, radishes, corn and pumpkin,” Saphore added, saying the students enjoy the hands-on learning they receive. “They really enjoy it. They get to plant it, watch it grow and eat it. [Master Gardener Marianne] O’Donnell keeps a record of the plant growth and the Master Gardeners help in the greenhouse with transplanting, planting and cutting.”

Some of Saphore’s students noted what they liked best about the project.

“I like that we get to plant most of the stuff and it’s fun to do,” said pupil Avah Reed.

“It’s cool how it grows,” added classmate Memphis Goad.