Here at Design for America: Alabama, our project started with a simple question: How can we create an affordable, sustainable school garden for the students at Aliceville Elementary in Pickens County, Alabama?
While school gardens are constantly applauded for the benefits they can have on kids’ nutritional habits, activity levels, and even standardized test scores- the truth is that in many rural areas like Pickens, the upkeep of traditional outdoor garden projects is simply too expensive and time consuming. Meanwhile, these areas often suffer most from epidemics of obesity and diabetes in children and adults, as is the case with Pickens County.
Hydroponic gardens- which feature systems of water and nutrients as opposed to soil- are what many call the “agriculture of the future.” They grow delicious fruits and vegetables faster, in a smaller area, and with less mess than traditional soil gardens. Additionally, these “water gardens” could provide a revolutionary and exciting new method of teaching kids about sustainable agriculture, healthy eating, and STEM concepts.
Our project aims to aims to implement a hydroponic school garden program at Aliceville Elementary, a Title I school in Pickens County, Alabama, and teach an after-school curriculum where the students become STEMgineers. As STEMgineers, the kids will not only grow food, but they will grow as they build and design, take care of their produce from seed to harvest, learn about healthy habits, and work together as a team.
Ultimately, the ingredients produced by the gardens will go into a pizza dinner for the kids and their families at an end of the year “Harvest Festival." This will be a night of fun and celebration for the students and their families as they see the results of their hard work and have a STEMgineer graduation.
We’ve gone to the drawing board—and back—numerous times, trying to design the perfect hydroponic system for this project; one that is as space and cost-efficient as possible. However, what we’ve realized in our hours of designing, is that we have a substantial resource hurdle to jump to build the best possible system.
Since this is a pilot program, we need a bit of seed money before we can iterate to bring the cost down, at first, below $1,000, and eventually, even lower. If we want the STEMgineers curriculum in schools across the country, we desparately need an initial push.
Lights: LED grow lights are the best light for hydroponic gardens, and for the successful cultivation of our chosen plants (tomatoes and basil), we would need:
o 2 (two) 300 Watt 12-band LED grow lights ($369 each, for a total of$738)
o 2 (two) 50 Watt LED grow lights ($26.99 each, for a total of $53.98)
o 2 (two) pairs of 1/8” grow light hangers ($8.99 each, for a total of $17.98)
Pump: we are designing an Ebb and Flow hydroponic system, which means that the plants’ roots are watered on a timer; for example, every 15 minutes or so.
o 1 (one) 550 GPH submersible water pump ($35)
Tubing: we need a way to transfer the water from the reservoir at the bottom of the system to the top of the system, so that the plants can be watered:
o 20 (ten) feet of flexible nylon tubing (~ $30)
Nutrient Solution: we need a high-quality nutrient solution so that our plants grow quickly and heartily, and we need pH-adjusting solutions to nail down the perfect pH requirements for our plant
o 32 (thirty-two) ounces of DynaGro nutrient solution ($27)
o 3 (one) General Hydroponics pH control kit ($27)
Water Reservoir: we need a storage container to hold the nutrient water before it is pumped into our system:
o 1 (one) 10 gallon Rubbermaid Brute can ($22)
Alongside the costs listed above, there are many miscellaneous costs involved in creating and deploying this system
With your help to gather the needed equipment, we can make a sustainable garden a reality for the kids at Aliceville Elementary, and we can provide them with a learning experience and outlet that cannot be found anywhere else. Together let’s help the STEMgineers grow!
DonationsSee top donations
- Danielle Blevins
- Beth Hakes
- Peggy Meyer
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