Hydroponics greenhouse provides hands-on learning at Hudson High School

Yeji Kim
Special to the Hudson Hub-Times
A Jan. 15 tour led by HHS AP Environmental Science teacher Matthew Kearns offered members of The Kiwanis Club of Hudson insight into the hydrophonic greenhouse. The club donated a $20,000 grant to help fund the project.

Project-based learning is a learning model where students work together to engage in real-world questions and problems, and the Hudson High School hydroponics greenhouse centers around this approach to education.

The hydroponics greenhouse started roughly two years ago, and Phillip Herman, Superintendent of the Hudson City School District, and Christina Wooley, HCSD Curriculum Coordinator, are credited with most of the original idea.

Herman first learned about hydroponics gardening and greenhouses from a community member and thought there may be a way to better utilize the HHS greenhouse space to create learning opportunities for students. He began with discussing the idea with teachers, visiting an operating hydroponics greenhouse and exploring areas of the curriculum that could be enhanced.

The first year consisted largely of planning, strategizing and raising money, and this past year was when equipment started to come in and crops began to grow.

The hydroponics greenhouse is presently nurturing a crop of lettuce, which takes around 10 weeks to fully mature in the wintertime.

A hydroponics greenhouse differs from a traditional greenhouse in that no soil is required. Instead, the plants draw up nutrient-rich water. Less water is used since the water is recycled, and because of the absence of soil, hydroponics greenhouses take up less space — the plants can be stacked vertically. The HHS hydroponics greenhouse also includes a monitoring computer system that measures what is currently in the water and what will be needed.

A $20,000 grant was given by The Kiwanis Club of Hudson to support the project, and this money was used to purchase greenhouse equipment.

CropKing, an Ohio-based hydroponics equipment company, was the supplier for the equipment, seeds and fertilizer, and the firm also aided in setting up the equipment and trained those involved with the greenhouse.

Two other grants, an ADAR grant and a grant from the Hudson Parent-Teacher Organization supplemented the Kiwanis grant money. The greenhouse itself is located off of HHS biology classes and has been there before the hydroponics greenhouse was started.

Students are faced with real-world questions, such as how to sustain crops in regions without sufficient access to water, ways to use land effectively and properly, impacts on the environment and how to grow sustainably and locally.

Science teacher Matthew Kearns said students have been seeing the benefit of this project, which includes those in the AP Environmental Science class he teaches, special education students who work with Intervention Specialist Kristin Stonestreet and biology classes taught by Ron Wright. Students visit at least once a week to monitor the crops.

Currently, the greenhouse is growing its first round of crops, which includes lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Stonestreet and Kearns are considering adding cilantro, basil and peppers as well. The diversification would enhance the project-based learning aspect, as students will need to work together to figure out how much additional lighting and heat every crop needs.

The long term goal is to get involved with the community; through connecting with the business department and forming a club, students plan to sell produce from the greenhouse at the Hudson Farmers Market in the summertime and sell to HCSD faculty and staff when school is in session, engaging aspects of science, business and team-work. Several potential products for sale in the future include a salsa kit, tomato sauce and fresh herbs.

Herman notes how this greenhouse works to enhance classroom activity and curriculum.

“Over recent years, we have continued to learn more about and explore opportunities for project-based learning. Project-based learning enables students to learn course content and develop other essential success skills by beginning with a challenging problem or question and conducting sustained inquiry to explore solutions to the problem and answers to their questions. Together, Christina Wooley, Mr. Kearns and Mrs. Stonestreet dug in and worked collaboratively to do the hard work to bring an idea to implementation.”