The 2018 Impact100 Oakland County grant recipient Huron-Clinton Metroparks Foundation has provided an update on its Seeding a Green Future project, which engages low-income students in sustainable agriculture and hydroponics to generate a sustained interest in STEM fields in students from Thompson International Academy, a K-8 school in the Southfield School District through school gardens, classroom hydroponics, teacher mentoring, biweekly classroom visits, and farm/greenhouse field trips.
Forced Adjustments for the Better
Although the original plan for the project called for supporting only the 7th-grade students, the Foundation needed to make various changes based on the COVID-19 pandemic and the school district’s regulations, such as laptop and technology updates. As a result, the Foundation expanded the project to provide programming and support for all 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade Thompson students to learn more about things like ecosystems, the scientific method, and other concepts critical in sustainable agriculture.
To enable student hands-on learning while remote schooling from mid-March 2020 through April 2021, 248 at-home grow boxes were created with soil and seeds and distributed to the Thompson Academy’s 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students and its respective science teachers—all free per the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority Board of Commissioners’ directive. Additionally, the Foundation and Thompson Academy have developed partnerships with the Southfield School District, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Greenhouse, and the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Natural History Museum, to provide continued support for the project through upcoming field trips and interactive learning opportunities.
The Eagerness from In-Person Learning Continues
Even after in-person learning returned, weekly programming by Kensington Farm Center staff continues at Thompson International Academy on a rotating basis for all three grades. Topics covered have included Basic Hydroponics; The Power of Water; Erosion and Geology; Ecology and Human Impacts on a Watershed; and Predation and Competition. With previous years of science being taught remotely or in a hybrid setting, the students are eager to engage in hands-on and interactive activities, becoming a critical aspect of the 2022-23 curriculum.
In addition to the in-class programming, Metropark staff have worked with Thompson Academy’s GREEN Team, a sustainability-focused student group ranging from 3rd to 8th grades, to teach them hydroponics and support their student-led initiative to bring recycling to every classroom in the school. The Seeding a Green Future project has also supported the school’s Salmon in the Classroom project, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources project that supplies salmon eggs to schools across Michigan for the Thompson Academy students to raise.
More to Come in the “Green Future”
The Seeding a Green Future project was designed from the start to be agriculturally sustainable, and the sustainability plan has stayed the same since the grant proposal. Thompson Academy’s middle school science teachers have the project curriculum and the experience needed to teach the lessons, having participated in the curriculum development and every project lesson for their grade. In addition, the school’s classrooms will each be equipped with the tools and equipment needed to run their portion of the three-year program.
Because of the considerable support for the grant project, the Thompson Academy administration is considering utilizing an unused classroom to become the permanent home of the hydroponic units, gardening supplies, and other equipment from the Seeding a Green Future project. This shared Sustainable Agriculture classroom would ensure the continued use of the Seeding a Green Future curriculum for the students and allow teachers from the lower grades to bring their students to engage with materials, equipment, and curriculum.