the pressure is on

The US education system has been undergoing changes recently. The Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards are shifting teaching standards to ensure students are set up for success and equipped with the experience and knowledge to tackle global problems. More emphasis is being put on hands-on learning, systems thinking approach, interdisciplinary teaching, and STEM education, and as a result, schools and teachers are taking innovative approaches to expose students to modern day issues of global concern. Topics of focus are familiar: climate change, food production and security, nutrition, conservation, and sustainability, to name a few.

Locally, we’re seeing the benefits of these new approaches to learning. Two Massachusetts schools are leading the charge: one school operates their own Leafy Green Machine, and another is enabling students to envision, create, and test their vision for creating a more sustainable food system.

From Classroom to Container Farm

We’ve shared this project numerous times, but we’re excited to finally showcase the enormous passion and drive of the Boston Latin School students and let you hear what the students have to say about their experience. Take a look:

This project has given students hands-on learning experience outside of the classroom and allowed them to take ownership over a project from its infancy. These students are becoming experts on the science and engineering of hydroponic agriculture, and they are learning the business and responsibility of running a farm.

I come out here everyday, I grow lettuce, kale, basil....I really like how independent it is. It is entirely student learn a lot in your time here.
— Tim Hird-Devlin, BLS Student

In addition to the invaluable experience they’re gaining inside the farm, they’re sharing the benefits with the entire school community. The freight farm is providing a platform for engagement around the crucial topics of food, nutrition and sustainability… not to mention providing healthy, fresh produce right on campus!

It’s not just the students working in the farm that benefit from this because this is this larger presence that sends a message about sustainable community and provides an opportunity for conversations over and over again about “what does a sustainable community look like? what does it mean to support local agriculture? And why is that important?
— Cate Arnold, Faculty Advisor
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Just recently, the students operating the farm were presented an award by the Mayor of Boston for Community Leadership at the city’s Greenovate Summit for their work. A huge round of applause - we were thrilled to see the hard work and leadership demonstrated by these students recognized in a major way.

Big things are in store at Boston Latin, and we’re proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking group.


Next up: F. A. Day Middle School in Newton, Massachusetts

As public school science education is shifting gears, one Newton teacher decided to take a unique and fun approach to engage her students.  "Project based learning"  is becoming more common, so eighth grade teacher Kayla Klein designed a month long challenge around the topics of climate change, sustainability and food production incorporating the new Next Generation Science Standards.

The challenge: research, develop, engineer and market a container for growing lettuce that uses the least amount of resources possible.

In just one week the students designed and engineered the systems, maintaining their containers and using specific measurements to quantify the success of their product. Not only that, they were also tasked with developing and executing a marketing plan.

Efforts of their project were culminated in an interactive farmers market held by the class, where visitors were able to sample each team's lettuce (complete with homemade salad dressing!) and ask questions about their company's growth and maintenance plan.

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One of our favorite company names? “Hydro Happiness -- ‘Lettuce Feed You, Lettuce Help the Environment’"… Looks like we have some future farmers on our hands!

This project encompassed everything the Next Generation Science standards are looking for, so let’s hope this pilot program takes root at not just F. A. Day Middle School in Newton, but even more schools!

It’s clear that change is in the air, and that students are not just willing, but excited to be learning through more engaging and challenging programs. If you want to stay up to date with the project at Boston Latin School head to their website here

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