In August 2022, PLANTS, LLC received a funding award from Try This WV to create an Online Hydroponics Workshop for Teachers. This award represents the next step in the collaboration between PLANTS, LLC and West Virginia Ohio County Extension Agent Karen Cox. Working together Cox and Ruberg have expanded their partnership to include Maya Hayslett, an Iowa State 4-H Extension Service expert. Previous funding from the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium supported the development of six hydroponics lessons that were pilot tested by teachers in Ohio County WV and Hamilton County IA.
The results of the evaluation of 2021-2022 pilot testing of the hydroponics activities will be used in the Try This WV project to update the hands-on lessons based on teacher reports and student data. Development of a complete syllabus for the six to 10-week curriculum activities is also one of the project deliverables.
To support the distribution of classroom kits to accompany the hands-on hydroponics activities, PLANTS received funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of the WV Northern District. This funding will allow twenty teachers from across West Virginia to participate in the Online Hydroponics Workshop with no charge for their registration. This cohort of teachers will also receive classroom kits as part of their free registration so that all the activities can be done without schools incurring any additional costs.
The online hydroponics workshop will include materials specifically suggested by teachers and their students such as additional video to demonstrate use of equipment and time lapse images of plant growth processes. Teachers also suggested that we highlight agriculture careers that align with the skills and cognitive tasks outlined in each of the hands-on lessons. Agriculture-related career skills featured in the Growing Food with Hydroponics activities include: agriculture and food scientist, hydroponic grower/entrepreneur, technology manager, and agricultural equipment technician.
What do we expect to learn by developing this online hydroponics workshop for teachers? Students enjoy growing food with hydroponic systems in their classrooms and in the process, students develop increased interest in science, technology, engineering, and math concepts. Teachers as well as their students find great satisfaction in learning how to grow their own food. Teachers report that students take great interest in hydroponics as a practical lifelong skill that enhances their abilities to make healthy nutritional choices while becoming more aware of technology-enhanced food production processes.
For more information about the Online Hydroponics Workshop for Teachers, email LFRuberg @ gmail.com.