Columbia, Mo., public schools enable students to grow plants without soil. The tower gardens use 90 percent less water and grow plants three times faster, at sizes 30 percent larger than traditional gardens. There are 20 tower gardens, one in each of the 20 elementary schools in the district. President of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation Lynn Barnett told KOMU News that the project was chosen because it will make an impact on a large number of children — around 8,000 — and help children develop into productive adults.
"For this particular grant, what was really, really interesting was our world is dealing with hunger and production of food as it relates to water issues and space issues, so this, using these growing powers, is a way that food can be grown larger, and it can be grown faster and with very little water," she said. Barnett added that the foundation hopes the children will grow up to be "contributors to developing new ways to feed the world's population."
The station interviewed students including Dexter Fox, a third-grader at Russell Boulevard Elementary, who said, "I think it's gonna be fun having this in our school, because we come here often,"
Addelyn Bell, also a third-grader at Russell Boulevard, said that science is her favorite subject because she likes doing experiments and learning about the world. She's excited about having the tower garden: "I think it's just gonna be really cool to have."
According to CPS Science Coordinator Mike Szydlowski, who installed the gardens, he will start student competitions in mid-January, like which school can grow the largest head of lettuce. Students can experiment by changing the formula for nutrients, adjusting the light timers or using different types of lettuce.
He said that the tower gardens provoke thought and wonderment: "A lot of the parents have learned science by textbooks and memorizing content, and it doesn't stick, and there's so many things in society, in our culture, right now that involve problem solving and using wonderment and trying to find new ways to solve problems that we don't even know about, so we want to get new opportunities for the kids to be curious."