6 Reasons to Teach Hydroponics in the Classroom

Posted by Amy Storey on August 25, 2014

Hundreds of educators around the globe use hydroponics in their classrooms. And we've had the privilege of working with dozens of them! They've implemented this Soil-Less Science technique into their classroom curriculum is producing great results... but why?

 [Just a reminder: Hydroponics means growing plants without soil and aquaponics is a form of hydroponics that uses fish waste as a natural fertilizer.]

For all you teachers out there still on the fence, here are six reasons to use hydroponic or aquaponic gardens in your classroom to boost student buy-in and creativity...


Why teach hydroponics in the classroom?

1) Because it creates context in your math and science lessons.

calculatorSome of the best teachers I had were the ones who not only taught me information and skills, but allowed me to adopt that information or skill into my own life by making it relevant and giving it context. The most impactful teachers I know are the ones striving for 100% comprehension. It's far from an easy job, but looking back on my own education, I can truly say I've learned more because of those teachers.

Ultimately, it's the student who decides whether or not a topic is relevant to them, but teachers enable and equip students to make that decision. Hopefully hedging the decision to the relevant side.

Classroom HydroponicsThe world just makes more sense in context. Whether that's a chemistry lesson or it's a biology lesson, if it has some real world application that students can touch and affect it's a much more meaningful lesson to grasp.

Why not employ a teaching tool such as a hydroponic or aquaponic garden to give students tangible lesson they can touch and even eat? Hydroponics gives students opportunities to build and maintain a real live growing system, plant and harvest crops, raise fish, and much more. Suddenly the lessons they have been learning are being applied to something they truly care about and the lessons come alive in context.

2) Because it's fresh, innovative and intriguing.

Student participation seems to be an unending battle for many educators. It's tough to get students enthusiastically engaged in what you're teaching. I think we can all agree that it's easier when the topic is something new and exciting that interests them. Hydroponics does this by being innovative and new.

Growing plants in soil is such a familiar concept to almost everybody that the idea of growing plants without it intrigues them. Hydroponics and aquaponics are two of the most exciting techniques used for growing plants. As Oliver Schinkten experienced with his students:

"When students saw the aquaponics systems they fell in love with them. Many have had experience with alternative agriculture as my science club had hydroponic lettuce gardens in the past. The thought of aquaponics, however, intrigued them beyond belief."

How much more excited are students when they actually get to create a hydroponics or aquaponics system for themselves? These are the fresh ideas that teachers all over the U.S. are using to inspire students' creativity and encourage innovative thinking. Character traits so crucial to being successful once out in the "real world."

Dig Deeper: Learn more about ZipGrow towers >>

3) Because it unites the surrounding community.

The tangible products of classroom hydroponics, or any school garden for that matter, can impact the surrounding community in a powerful way. Whether that translates into supplementing cafeteria cuisine with fresh herbs or selling classroom greens at the local farmer's market, the lessons go far beyond the classroom door.people-304728_1280
Schools on all levels are building hydroponic or aquaponic systems, growing produce, and sharing with the community. Kids gain the experience of sharing with the community and seeing the results of that community spirit firsthand. Community involvement also opens up a slew of new teaching opportunities when it comes to finance, business, people management, and customer service.

4) Because it supports a teacher's curriculum and brings lessons to life.

Chemistry, plant and fish biology, math, finance, marketing... the list goes on.

>>> (Really, it does. Check out our Educator's Packet for a longer list.)

Not only can you teach a wide range of Common Core topics, but you can team up with other teachers to multiply your teaching efforts in ways that boost student learning. Your hydroponics system doesn't have to be limited to one classroom- it can benefit the whole school. 

Kevin Savage Kevin Savage of Cincinnati

Kevin Savage experienced this at his school in Cincinnati:

"We begin using aquaponics with our freshman in Biology to support teaching of aquatic ecosystems, intro to microbiology, intro to botany, cellular biology, photosynthesis, etc. Our sophomore students take chemistry, and we use the aquaponics systems to teach about pH, oxidation-reduction reactions, etc. All of our “hands-on” construction and system operations aquaponics activities take place as a part of our Environmental Science I & II course sequence (Sustainable and Urban Agriculture), or as a component of independent student research."

With hydroponics and aquaponics, teachers gain a teaching tool that is useful in not only in teaching certain topics, but also life skills and principles.

5) Because it builds practical skills that create world citizens.

Empowering young people to make valuable contributions to the world while finding fulfillment in life is undoubtedly an important end goal of our education system.

Educators are preparing students to not only pass tests, get accepted to a college if they choose to go that route and ultimately thrive in their desired occupation. Most of us can agree that building problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity skills is a crucial part of preparation.

All innovation is by it's very nature a product of problem solving. All invention is a product of creativity. Giving students a problem to solve in a low-pressure environment like a classroom garden is an incredible way to begin to develop these invaluable skills that will serve them today and for the rest of their lives. 

hydroponics in the classroom Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

6) Because growing is human.

Growing plants, whether through a hydroponic system or even a soil garden, is a true human act.

As human beings, we need green things in our lives. Growing our own food is something we've unfortunately become estranged from over the years.

However, as passionate educators like you begin to recognize this fact for what it is, they can begin reintroducing students to the act of growing and harvesting.

Not only are there valuable lessons about biology, chemistry and engineering to teach with Soil-Less Science systems, there is the human act of growing food to regain and help students understand how their food is grown. Knowledge that sadly many of our youth do not have.

In Conclusion:

Hydroponics is a versatile tool that peaks the interest of students, encourages involvement, and amplifies the teaching of not only a wide variety of school topics but also real world skills.

Learn more about hydroponics and aquaponics in the classroom here.

Ready to learn more?

Don't wait - be the one who takes initiative and starts an amazing learning gardne! Learn how to get started here:

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Topics: In the Classroom

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