Aeroponics and Career Education

Progress report for YENC22-178

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2022: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 07/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Learning Tree Institute at Greenbush
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Manager:
Sydney Hale
Greenbush Education Service Center
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Project Information


Capitalizing on an existing hydroponic production greenhouse and in-house culinary arts program, 4 instructors will receive tower gardens, and an additional 8 instructors will receive smaller hydroponic setups. All instructors will receive professional development on implementing an aeroponic/hydroponic program within their classrooms. Students will be introduced to potential careers in agriculture, as well as culinary arts, and restaurant management.  It is anticipated this project will directly impact up to 240 students. Instructors will receive on-site instruction in a production greenhouse and both instructors and students will tour a production greenhouse and culinary arts program in fall 2022 and 2023.

Project Objectives:

Provide four instructors with a tower garden and an additional eight instructors with hydroponic deep water culture tubs for their classrooms.

Provide professional development to instructors on how to start, grow, and maintain their gardens and introduce aeroponics to students.

Provide students with field trip opportunities to a production greenhouse and culinary program to increase career awareness.

Educational & Outreach Activities

8 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 Published press articles, newsletters
8 Tours
6 Webinars / talks / presentations
8 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

1 Farmers/ranchers
434 Youth
23 Educators
5 Other adults
1 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

Instructors learning about hydroponic grow tubs and aeroponic towers
Instructors learning about their aeroponic grow towers

Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative Decorative DecorativeFarm to Table Career Days 2023

Projects in the classrooms we worked with

     The first phase of our outreach was a day of professional development Sydney Becker provided on the Greenbush Campus for 13 teachers from local districts.  At this time 8 instructors received their hydroponic grow tubs, plants, and supplies. Instructors chose to go ahead and take her aeroponic grow tower, plants, and supplies. (Pictures above, link to presentation: SARES PD Day)

     Over the course of the following month, Sydney Becker traveled to the 3 remaining districts to set up their aeroponic tower gardens and bring plants to stock the tower. We have continued to stay in touch with all the instructors as a resource, as well as to replace supplies, and provide new plants if needed.

We provided participating instructors three dates to choose when they attend a "Farm to Table Career Day" event. We had 3 classes on November 8th, 2022, 5 classes out on November 30th, 2022 and 4 classes out on January 17th, 2023.  Students had a rotation in the greenhouse, where they learned about the hydroponic system, water quality, sustainable growing methods, related careers, a fun herb identification activity, and harvested lettuce.  Students then took their lettuce to the next rotation which was with Dawn Jackson our Culinary Director.  The students prepared salads from the heads of lettuce and added other vegetables, and made homemade dressings.  Dawn also talked about ways to reduce food waste by making stocks and broths, donating scraps to local farmers livestock, and our composting program. The third rotation was making omelets with staff members Emily Roth and Jenn Roetman-Myhr, highlighting easy to grow produce from our greenhouse, and how you can locally source eggs and other ingredients.  The last rotation was provided by our local K-State Research and Extension office.  They gave a presentation on careers related to agriculture, and had some fun corresponding activities.  In April of 2023 we provided a similar program for our local 3rd-5th grade special olympics participants.  30 students toured and enjoyed activities in the greenhouse, made salads and dressings, learned how being active can be fun, and got a lesson on nutrition and sugar intake from K-State Research and Extension. We received an abundance of positive feedback from participating students and instructors. 

We also offered 2 virtual opportunities in the spring of 2023 to all of our schools, to "Interview a Professional". The guest speaker was Heather Horton, co-owner and manager of restaurant TOAST in Pittsburg, Kansas, who shared her background on how she got into the business, sourcing local ingredients (including Greenbush lettuce), entrepreneurship, and much more! Students had a variety of questions prepared, and Heather did an amazing job of elaborating on everything from the struggles of the pandemic, her favorite menu item, finding Kansas-grown and milled flour, starting your own business, and more.

We have continued to be a resource and provide support to participating schools, from troubleshooting issues, starting and delivering new plants, replacing supplies, and continuing to offer the opportunity for teachers to bring classes to Greenbush to tour the greenhouse and participate in related activities, and for teachers to visit for professional development. Three instructors are scheduled to bring their class to visit our greenhouse spring of 2024.  One school is scheduled to bring teachers out to tour for professional development as the are starting their own hydroponic growing program. 

We have posted updates on grant related activities in our campus weekly "All-Call", our Greenbush Monthly Newsletter, and on our Greenbush Student Enrichment facebook page.

Learning Outcomes

434 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Horticulture/ Gardening/ Sustainability

  • Careers

  • Science

  • Nutrition

Results and discussion:

I requested feedback from participating instructors, below are responses we received:

"The programs that our school attended both for professional growth and student learning increased and brought awareness to both problem-solving and critical-thinking skills for teachers and students alike. All activities and conferences were well prepared, organized, and entertaining. They increased communication opportunities between students and teachers and allowed networking with neighboring districts. I appreciate that all information gained was applicable to my classroom and curricular development."
"For me, hearing from other teachers on current system, what their grade level was able to do compared to fifth, and how to use the possible produce to sell or extend the program was super helpful in kickstarting brainstorming. The farm to table days was my favorite as far as impacting students. They were able to see where it comes from, what could impact growth, cleaning, prepping, following a recipe, and careers. My 5th graders scored higher on the science state assessments than the district and state the last three years, and I can't help but think that the more hands on and real world experience they get, the better."
I will share the entire survey that was sent and responses we received.  Feedback was very positive, and instructors are successfully using the towers and tubs as teaching tools in the classroom as planned. 


Project Outcomes

10 New working collaborations
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

Within Greenbush Student enrichment, the Farm to Table days were a large success and we have discussed offering them regularly to groups that are interested. There also seems to be an increase in support to explore and teach sustainable agriculture within the classes and schools that we worked with, now that they can see all of the benefits and standards based lessons that can go along with these concepts.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.