Photo: Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi

Photo: Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi

Sustainable Gardens in the Classroom 

Looking for a way to inspire your middle school students about science, nutrition, farming, sustainability and organics?

Program Overview

Monmouth Conservation Foundation is proud to offer the second round of the Tower Garden Grant Program for Middle Schools in Monmouth County.  If you are a teacher looking to bring a dynamic new enrichment tool into your classroom, this program is for you!  Thanks to funding from The Community Foundation of New Jersey, Monmouth Conservation will underwrite the cost of four aeroponic growing units, known as Tower Gardens, plus provide training, technical assistance and an in-class visit with a local organic farmer and MCF staff to bring the themes of sustainability, conservation, nutrition and organics deeper into the classroom.  We know that this exciting program will spark the curiosity and excitement of students about growing healthy, fresh, organic foods such as herbs, kale, lettuce and tomatoes while the classroom receives an innovative, educational tool and program to meet the New Jersey Science Standards through STEM education. The Tower Garden is just the beginning of the amazing journey you can take students on without leaving your classroom.  This tool allows you to grow food in the middle of winter and includes grow lights and everything you need to create a lush garden indoors.

Tower Gardens employ aeroponic technology to grow plants in an air or mist environment rather than soil. Aeroponic systems use water, liquid nutrients and a soilless growing medium to quickly and efficiently grow nutrient-rich produce. This form of growing uses 98% less water than traditional agriculture while growing organic produce 30% faster. During the 2018/2019 school year, MCF donated six aeroponic growing towers to Middle Schools in Monmouth County (schools were located in Asbury Park, Holmdel, Howell, Highlands, Neptune and Red Bank).

Ready to learn more? Watch this presentation to learn
more about how Tower Gardens work.

Click To Watch

“They LOVED it! The Tower Garden really sparked them.” explained Ms. Kristen Mariello, Science teacher at Red Bank Middle School about her experience with the students’ reaction to having the Tower Garden in their classroom.

Why Learn about alternative growing methods like aeroponics?

To adapt to our changing climate, students must learn to think critically about alternative solutions/options to traditional farming that reduce the impact of human actions that negatively impact our environment. Aeroponic growing methods provide a lens through which to examine sustainable uses of natural resources, think critically about organic food production and learn the importance of healthy nutrition. 

In addition to aeroponics, program participants also receive an in-class visit from an aquaponics grower in our community.  Cody Parker from Drop the Beet Farms in Freehold partners with MCF staff to bring an actual aquaponics growing unit into your classroom to compare and contrast the different types of alternative growing and how they relate to sustainability.  Kids experience two interactive examples that can be found on farms right here in Monmouth County and have the chance to interact with an expert grower.

MCF has successfully preserved thousands of acres of farmland and is creating a growing number of urban greenspaces. Alternative growing methods such as aeroponics, hydroponics and aquaponics are becoming an increasingly common business component of rural and urban farms due to the ability to grow produce year-round and to meet the increasing consumer demands for local, organic foods. Additionally, aeroponic growing makes a garden possible year-round, instead of just during the summer season, allowing students to learn about growing vegetables during the school year. It also allows those who live in urban areas to participate. Additionally, students are shown potential career opportunities in agriculture and small business development.

Sustainable Jersey Schools

We can help your school achieve points through Sustainable Jersey School Certification program under both “Food & Nutrition” and “Student Learning” action items. Learn more and register for Sustainable Jersey Schools at their website found here: sustainablejerseyschools.com.

The 5 W’s of our Tower Garden Growing Initiative:

Photo: Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi

Photo: Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi

WHO – All Middle Schools in Monmouth County are eligible to apply for one of four Tower Gardens to be donated by MCF to their school.

WHAT – MCF will donate one Tower Garden unit per school (valued at over $1,000) that will include indoor growing lights and the supplies needed to operate the unit and garden for the duration of the school year. MCF staff and the Tower Garden company, Tower Garden by Juice Plus+, will provide technical assistance and lesson plans to the science teachers in order to implement the unit into the New Jersey Science Standards curriculum. MCF will conduct a school visit to observe the Tower Garden in action and provide an interactive experience that includes a local aquaponic farmer and culinary component.  The class visit includes a discussion with students about the importance of sustainability, conservation and how students can take action to effectuate change.

WHERE – Middle Schools must determine in their application where in the school the Tower Garden can be located and demonstrate that school staff is willing to take on the experience. This is intended to ensure that schools have given consideration to logistical placement of the unit within the school.  Since grow lights are included, sun exposure is not essential to the placement location, but a sunny spot to access natural light certainly won’t hurt.  The Tower Garden is 30 x 30 inches at the base. A standard Tower Garden is 62 inches tall and holds up to 20 plants. With the indoor grow lights, you will need approximately 2-3 additional feet around the unit for proper care and harvest.

WHEN – MCF is currently seeking applications. Applications will be accepted until September 30, 2019 to allow for Tower Garden units placement in the schools by the end of October 2019.

WHY – To teach students about growing organic foods, inspire them to eat a healthy diet, and learn about sustainable agriculture! Aeroponic growing helps to teach sustainability through better usage of resources, agriculture, and a host of other STEM learning experiences.


Application and Selection Process

Click the links below and complete the forms to be considered for a Tower Garden grant donation to your school:

DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION AGREEMENT (pdf)

We are currently accepting applications from Middle Schools in Monmouth County. Tower Garden applications will be reviewed and accepted until September 30th, 2019 with the intent to have the four selected Tower Garden locations placed by the end of October 2019.

MCF will select the four Middle Schools to receive a Tower Garden. Applications will be selected based on the teachers’ dedication and enthusiasm towards implementing the Tower Garden into the classroom lessons and an equitable representation of geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds representing the diversity of Monmouth County.

Please contact Amanda Brockwell, Director of Programs and Outreach with any questions
at
abrockwell@monmouthconservation.org or (732-671-7000 x109).

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