With indoor gardens, a learning opportunity grows in Park City | ParkRecord.com

With indoor gardens, a learning opportunity grows in Park City

Teachers are using the tower gardens for interactive instruction

Melissa Bott, a second-grade teacher at Parleys Park Elementary School, is using a hydroponic tower garden to teach students science concepts, as well as lessons in other subjects. The nonprofit organization EATS PC recently installed a garden in each school in the Park City School District.

Over the last few school years, EATS PC, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy eating at school, has helped build outdoor gardens at nearly every school in the Park City School District.

There was only one problem.

"The growing season is mostly when the kids are out of school," said Kimberly Patterson, the group's program manager. "So they get to finish in the spring and start in the fall, but we wanted something that we could have year round."

But EATS PC believes it has found the perfect solution. It recently installed an indoor hydroponic tower garden in each of the district's seven schools. The gardens, which don't need outdoor sunlight to sustain plants, grow everything from peas to pansies and allow students to participate in a number of projects. Younger students will use the gardens to learn about where food comes from and concepts such as photosynthesis, while older students will delve into the science that makes hydroponic gardens possible.

"Every grade level can get something out of it," Patterson said. "The little kids, they like to touch what they're growing, whereas the older students at the high school want to get in there and see the engineering part and how it works."

Melissa Bott, a second-grade teacher at Parley's Park Elementary School, is fortunate enough to have one of the gardens in her classroom. So far, she's used it to teach students about science concepts like the water cycle and how important water is to living organisms. But she's also used it for lessons in other subjects, like math and art. For instance, she has required the students to measure the plants and chart their growth in both inches and centimeters.

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They also get to taste what they're growing. Recently, the students participated in a competition to make the best salsa with ingredients grown on the tower garden.

Bott said it's been awesome for the students to learn through doing, rather than her simply teaching from a book.

"Interactive learning is better than anything you can teach," she said. "It's fun because they're motivated and they come up with different things."

Patterson said EATS PC, which was founded only a few years ago, is delighted with the support it's received from the community and school district, which allows them to make projects like the tower gardens happen.

"It is unbelievable," she said. "We have administrators, parents, PTOs (parent-teacher organizations), nonprofits, businesses, everybody being such a big support system. They literally have held us up and supported us. We couldn't ask for more. Everybody wants to help."