Students learn about hydroponic food production

Teacher Jenn Dillinger, left, listens as student Tukker Romey shares her experience with the new hydroponic grow units at the high school during a media day at Gering High School. Romey enjoyed learning about the controlled environment and growth rate.

Students are getting a hands-on experience growing food on their plates as Gering Public Schools introduced hydroponic growing units in the classrooms.

Lincoln Elementary teacher Kristi Mueller said her students will have an opportunity to use the units. Despite describing herself as having a black thumb, Mueller said she is excited her fifth graders have this opportunity.

“The station is set up to self water,” she said. “It has the light that’s on for 14 hours a day and off 10 hours.”

Students will get to harvest the plants and use those fresh ingredients to make food. They already made a pesto.

At the high school, Gering High School teacher Jenn Dillinger has implemented the tower into her science classes. The high school tower has space to grow 288 plants at a time. They are currently growing 144 lettuce plants due to the larger size.

“My students have so far gotten to do some practical analytical chemistry,” she said. “We do check the pH level of the water, we check the nutrient level and they’ve seen how we adjust that.”

Tukker Romey, a student in Dillinger’s classes, has had the opportunity to learn about hydroponics and the real world implications of the technology.

“In environmental science, we talk about stability a lot, so with how the water system is set up and the temperature of our room, the stability of the plants is good,” Romey said.

The units take a small amount of water and electricity to run, which Dillinger and her students discuss the potential use as population growth continues.

“As the number of people keep climbing, it’s important to come up with other ways to grow food,” Dillinger said. “With a very small footprint, you can grow a lot of food in a very short period of time, which is cool.”

There are hydroponic units in every school in the district.

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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