Learning how to grow their own plants using hydroponic technology is a valuable lesson for Denise Dewling's students.
Corner Brook Regional High is one of 43 schools through the western region of Newfoundland learning how to grow plants without using soil.
The school is participating in Memorial University’s Project SucSeed, an award-winning hydroponic system developed by the university.
The system uses a nutrient-rich solution and a specialized ultraviolet light instead of soil and the plants are grown in containers indoors.
Dewling, a physical education teacher, is working with a handful of students in the Grade 10-12 school to manage the hydroponic gardens.
Corner Brook Regional High was one of the first schools to start using hydroponics during the September 2018 semester.
Dewling said they started out growing the “beginner” seeds, lettuce and kale, in their two hydroponic tubs in late September.
They now have four tubs with another on the way.
For this upcoming semester, Dewling hopes to regrow those crops but to also try out more advanced seeds, such as tomatoes and peppers.
Dewling feels there are all kinds of benefits to using hydroponics, especially in the midst of the long Newfoundland and Labrador winter.
“Where our winter seasons are so long and school doesn’t run throughout the summer, they’re not able to monitor as efficiently as in the inside,” she said.
Dewling called the hydroponic system low maintenance, self-sufficient and cleaner.
“It allows the opportunity for kids to start off with this skill very light versus the huge responsibility of checking on it daily outside,” she said.
There is also great educational value for her students.
Dewling said the students can see and understand the scientific process of hydroponics unfold.
“They see the science component of how the water circulates and the natural sunlight and the light that came with the plants, the whole cycle of it,” she said.
The students also have to frequently test the water levels and the pH levels.
If the water is too acidic, they have to add bases like baking soda and retest to ensure the pH levels are just right.
Or else, the plant won’t grow.
Students must also ensure there’s lots of natural light and proper airflow so their growth materials don’t get mouldy.
Dewling also believes the project promotes holistic health allowing students to commit to a hobby where they can reconnect with the earth.
“They can have the confidence to have this life skill of adapting it to themselves and not relying so much on technology,” she said. “They can do this for their family and themselves.”