"Classroom Hydroponics is a great idea, but..."
A few months ago, the team here at Bright Agrotech glimpsed the potential of hydroponics as a classroom tool, and we began to explore it.
The more we inspected it, the more excited we got.
We started hearing from teachers and school volunteers, students and curriculum directors, all of whom were excited and passionate about using hydroponics as a teaching tool.
We also heard from educators who loved the idea of classroom hydroponics, but when it came time to take action and get the project started, didn’t know how to start.
While the versatility and customizable nature of hydroponics is an engaging characteristic, it also makes it hard to plan. And planning is one of your most crucial tools as an educator.
Without the ability to plan, your funding requests remain vague, lesson plans can’t be written ahead of time, and there’s the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what challenges you might face.
Three challenges that educators face
As we conversed with these teachers (who were so helpful- thanks, guys!), we kept hearing three words over and over again: Time, Money, and Intimidated.
These are the three walls keeping educators out of the Promise Land, so to speak.
Who wants to commit to a project without knowing the amount of time it requires? And why would you start something without knowing if you will have the money to finish it?
Together these huge unknowns bar educators from one of the greatest teaching tools they’ll never use.
Sad, isn’t it? It doesn't have to be!
There is a solution, and at Bright Agrotech, we have the power to give it to you.
We also care a lot about the students of this nation, and giving them a good science education. Which is why we do everything within our power to support educators and schools who share the passion. Now that we have information regarding the most common challenges faced by educators who want to start hydroponics, we’re focusing on troubleshooting.
We think that the best thing that we can do for educators is to:
- Give them an idea of what to expect
- Break down the starting process into easy steps
- Give them content to help them write grants, start funding programs, etc.
Building your own vs. Buying a whole system
There are two ways you could go with your classroom system: you could build your own, or you could get a full system.
Each of these options has pros and cons.
Building Your Own
Building your own system will take more research and more time. You will have to make a lot of decisions about equipment, types of fish and crops, size, plumbing, and more. The benefits of a self-built system are that your students have more opportunities to get their hands dirty, it’s typically a bit more engaging, and the building/planning of the system presents more teaching opportunities.
A small (classroom-sized) build-it-yourself system would require roughly 8-12 hours of planning, and anywhere from 10-30 hours of labor to put it together. If you’re doing this as a class and you run into a hiccup, you might be spending a weekend or two troubleshooting.
Getting a full system that’s all ready to be set up and run can be a much more attainable goal.
Typically the way this would work is that you would receive all the parts, usually already partially constructed (without having to make any decisions about what they are) and instructions to put the system together. You would only be responsible for getting seedlings, water, and occasionally, the nutrient solution.
We recommend this type of system for beginners, as it requires only an hour or two of prep. That prep would include planting seeds a few weeks ahead of time (a great intro into agriculture or botany for your students), clearing space for your system, and lesson planning.
Having said that a full system is our recommendation for beginners, we also know educators who use both types of systems, and think that it’s worth it to build your own. What you decide to do depends on your situation and the energy you can put into it!
How do you set up your system?
Alright. Here's the hard part, right? "Managing to grow plants without soil must require fancy equipment and a complicated setup," you think.
But that's just not true - if you go with a full, complete system, like Bright Agrotech's Classroom Package.
We could explain setup to you here, but frankly, a video's worth a thousand words.
Here you can see how easy it is to setup a Spring Vertical Gardening Tower:
And, after that, the Light Kit:
You'll be ready to grow within the hour!
Now, if you've decided to design a custom system, your setup time will range based on your system design and personal skills.
That's why we recommend the Classroom Package for beginners - it takes very little time away from you, your students, or other activities in the busy educator's life.
You can get straight to the fun part - growing, teaching, and learning.
Finding funding can be tedious
You might be asking, “How do I get the money to do this?”
In our last webinar we talked about grants at the district and state level, partnerships, and self-funding through crop sales.
All of those are valid options, but still a little too vague for comfort. We’d like to talk about what each of those options look like on a practical, nuts-n-bolts scale.
Some might consider writing grant proposals one of the worst tasks ever (can I get an Amen?). Who likes asking for money? And who likes the tedious research that goes into grant proposals?
Parts of a grant proposal you'll have to do yourself. And some we can help you with.
We can help you state your goals and objectives, envision your program design, establish sustainability (self-funding) of your program, and we can get you information about your budget and product so that you don’t have to do it yourself.
It's important to remember, getting funding is usually easier than you think! To learn more about your funding options, check out our post The Top 10 Funding and Grant Opportunities for School Gardens.
The Bright team has devoted lots of time to created resources to help you get started and stay successful with your classroom garden.
Depending where you are in the stages of set up for your classroom garden, check out these helpful posts below:
- Spring System Maintanence
- How to Grow Seeds for Your Classroom Garden
- Should I Plant Multiple Crops In My Classroom Garden?
- How and When To Plant Your Spring System
- What to Expect From Your Classroom Garden