Spring may come really late to the white winter land of Nunavut, but that doesn't mean we can't grow plants! Indoor aeroponics have become readily accessible for a wide variety of applications and the Plant Towers by Juice Plus make an excellent addition to your classroom and your STEM lessons.
Aeroponic Plant Towers have been around for many years now, but only recently have they started to venture into classrooms on a wide scale. They provide an excellent window into the lifecycle of plants that children don't often get to see while they are learning about it in school. But that's not the only thing these towers provide. They also provide some slightly cleaner air for your classroom and food. Our plant tower is loaded up with lettuce and basil to make salads and spice up the tuktu soup that the children eat. (Tuktu is the inuktitut word for Caribou)
The Plant Towers by Juice Plus+ also include lesson plans for teachers that cover a wide variety of topics to help supplement the work that teachers do. The lesson plans cover simple things for the younger grade, like labeling which food is healthy and which food is junk, up to more advanced lessons for the higher grades that teach them about the differences in certain varieties of plants we eat.
In our school, I started a small Plant Club to help with the maintenance of the Plant Towers. I've selected a few children who showed a lot of interest in the plants and trained them on the proper care and maintenance involved in keeping these plants happy and healthy. Their duties aren't that large, but they do help. They have to;
check the water levels daily
make sure the timer on the lights is at the proper time
protect the plants from other students and watch for signs of damage
They also have monthly tasks of adding nutrients to the water, testing the pH and fixing it if necessary, and filling up the water reservoir with fresh water. Those tasks I will be assisting them with. But the main goal of this club is to teach the children self-reliance and how modern technology can help them become more food secure.
Food Security is an extremely large issue in Nunavut, with some statistics putting it as high as 70% of children have to skip at least one meal a day which is eight times higher than the Canadian average Biology may only be a small sliver of the STEM pie, but it can be one of the most important subject for teaching students self reliance in this modern age. Climate change is affecting the arctic in ways that make it more difficult for the hunters of Nunavut. Herds of caribou move further than normal and so do killer whales. Which are a big nuisance on the seal, bowhead and beluga populations that the Inuit rely on for food as well as clothing and other materials.
One day I hope that the kids see the value in growing their own vegetables and fruit. When they get older they could start a project like other parts of Nunavut, where they turn shipping containers abandoned after sealift into indoor community gardens! That would be just wonderful, to know that at least a small portion of fruit and vegetables come from a local source.
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