What happens when two high school students take their class project home?
"Choas. Destruction. Insanity, " you say. Or perhaps you're thinking the opposite. "Absolutely nothing. It just sits there untouched, abandoned and forlorn."
What if neither was the case? What if instead the students spent hours and hours fiddling with the project, passionately crafting it into their own innovative masterpiece?
Well, that's when you would get something like this.
Recently we interviewed Mr. Jay Super, an educator we've highlighted previously on blog, about FFA and hydroponics. If you listened to this interview, you may have heard him mention two of his "super students", Miles and Jaiden. Mr. Super introduced me to these two enthusiastic students after our interview, and I saw firsthand how impactful his teachings have been on his students.
Miles and Jaiden are two of Mr. Super's students who took their hydroponics education way beyond the classroom (and hallway). After becoming involved in Maize High School's hydroponics program, they quickly grew passionate about the program and hydroponics in general. These two students were not only active with hydroponics in the school, frequently participating in class activities, special events, tours, etc., but also active with it at home. Miles and Jaiden started their own hydroponic system outside of school which has been very successful.
By taking what they learned in the classroom and applying it to the real world, these two super students have paved their way to promising futures.
Now Miles and Jaiden have found themselves as recipients of a growing amount of unique opportunities, including the opportunity to present their program to an agricultural bank to receive more funding and support. They've also been given the opportunity to write a hydroponics blog for the USDA which is to be featured on the White House webpage!
These two students not only portrayed to me excellent communication skills, but also a high level of passion, innovation, problem-solving, and leadership abilities. This just goes to show how impactful a program like Mr. Super's can really be.
And because I honestly couldn't communicate the level of enthusiasm and articulation I saw in these two students, I'm going to let them do the talking. Below are excerpts from the conversations I had with these two students about how they have taken their hydroponics education outside the classroom.
Prepare to be amazed!
A letter from Jaiden
This is Jaiden Soupene and I am part of the hydroponics program at Maize High! (Miles and I) are very passionate about this program and are excited to share its success with others!
First off, I would like to start off with giving credit to the person who made this all possible: Mr. Jay Super. He has been absolutely wonderful and I cannot even begin to explain how much he has done not just for our science department, but also for the school and the community.
I have never seen someone who works so hard and cares so much about his students and the future of America. There have been countless times where Mr. Super is at school late at night working on different hydroponic systems and perfecting what we have, along with growing the program. He is truly an amazing person who has even inspired me to become a teacher myself. I say all of this not just to commend him for all he has done for others and me, but also to preface how the program got started at MHS.
Back last fall is where our hydroponics system really took off. Miles and I were both enrolled in Plant & Animal Science, not really knowing what to expect from the class, and it became so much more than we ever thought any class could be! Mr. Super had talked to us about the growing popularity of hydroponics, also explaining what it was and showing us examples. I thought the idea was very neat, but did not realize how much we would be able to actually carry out. This program has grown beyond my (and I think even Mr. Super's) expectations!
After we learned the basics, Mr. Super started ordering different systems, including the ZipGrow towers, and eventually we were even tasked with designing our own. I will not go into detail about Miles's project [see below] because I'm sure he will be able to explain better than I, but he really did go above and beyond when making this system.
In our school, we didn't really have a place designated for us to grow plants hydroponically, and while at first this seemed like a negative, it turned out to be a very positive learning experience. We have a mostly unused storage area behind some science classrooms with windows which turned out to be the perfect place. It not only gave us ample sunlight, but also taught us how efficient growing plants hydroponically is! We have been able to grow a large amount of plants with many different systems in very small amount of space, which is one of the greatest benefits of hydroponics.
In a time where the population is growing at large rates and there is less and less space available for farming and agriculture, hydroponics is the perfect solution. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is not only an option in somewhere like Kansas where there is a lot of open space, but it can now even be done in the heart of New York City.
All that is needed is sunlight and nutrient solution, and anyone can have fresh fruits and vegetables, no matter where they live! Another benefit of this program is the ability of students to really see where their food comes from and being able to grow it themselves. Mr. Super has even worked it out to where we provide the Culinary department and lunchroom with fresh produce.
One of our most successful systems is actually the ZipGrow towers! I believe we currently have 8 to 10 towers that we have had active this school year, and Mr. Super might have even gotten more since I have been back there last.
Probably the biggest advantage is the fact that they take up so little space. We have been able to operate ours effectively without too much labor or space. We actually have a pump set up that circulates nutrient solution throughout each system and reuses it until we change out the solution.
There was even a point this year where we couldn't keep up with the amount of growth that this system was producing, which of course is a great problem to have! These ZipGrow towers have been very successful and I'm sure that going forward, we will be using more of them.
What Miles and I are perhaps most proud of is the time outside of the classroom that we have put into this program. Once people started hearing about how innovative Mr. Super was being, different figures from the local, state, and even federal level came forward, wanting to know more. There have been different articles written about our program on all different types of venues, along with even some time on the local news stations.
Mr. Super, Miles, and I, along with some help from our FFA chapter, have given two large tours this year of our hydroponics hall. During the last tour, Miles and I were even offered an opportunity to write a hydroponics blog for the USDA, which will go on the White House webpage and which Miles and I are currently working on.
There have been numerous benefits from this program, including knowledge about plants, agriculture, and communicating with others, but perhaps the most important lesson that I have been shown is that I can really make a difference and even change the world if I work hard and am innovative.
As I said in the beginning, this is all really due to Mr. Super. Miles and I have really been inspired by him and hope to continue to work with him on this even after we graduate.
Maize High School
A letter from Miles
I'm pleased to hear that you are impressed with Jaiden. He is an unbelievably smart guy and I've been very privileged to work with him on projects in school like this one.
The hydroponic system I designed and built was an original idea inspired by the tower garden commercially produced. I thought that I would have three towers instead of just one to increase yield of plants that would be growing in it. As far as what I'm doing with it, it is used to grow really any type of plant that doesn't have a heavy-bearing fruit. Lights that replicate the sun are constantly running on these plants, resulting in super fast grow times.
Again the personality Mr. Super has inspired me to build this tower, but additionally I wanted to show the school that a student could innovate and build something at home like this.
My personal experience first seeing all of the hydroponic equipment was incredible. I started to awe at all the different methods to grow food in a small area of space, and knew I could bring something new to the table. I became very passionate in educating people about hydroponics because not only is it interesting itself, but also getting through to people that they themselves can grow organic food to eat at home very easily.
Jaiden and I share this passion in educating people about where their food comes from. We would love to travel school to school and teach young adults to do this.
The opening of doors
Miles and Jaiden are wonderful examples of what can be accomplished when students take what they have learned in the classroom and carry it into their lives outside of school. Thanks to Mr. Super, these two students found a passion for something they would otherwise never have discovered. Now they are using their newly gained hydroponic knowledge to create their own innovative systems and sharing their experiences with students, businesses, and government audiences alike. Doors are opening for them- one after another.
If your school has a classroom garden using ZipGrow, comment below and tell us about how your students are being innovative with their learning for a chance to be featured on our blog!
To learn more about how students can practice innovation through vertical hydroponics or aquaponics, check out our In The Classroom page. Additionally, if you are interested in enriching the education of your students with ZipGrow technology, be sure to check out our Nutrient Cycling Discussion Plan and our free Webinar to get you started on your journey!