Goodrich Elementary students learn about hydroponic food

Something exciting is growing in Cassandra Graff's sixth-grade classroom at Goodrich Elementary School in Woodridge. Students are using the Flex Farm, innovative hydroponic technology, to grow fresh leafy greens year-round indoors. Students have already grown over 20 pounds of lettuce this school year.

Fork Farms began partnering with Woodridge District 68 in April 2019. There are currently four schools in the district with Flex Farms. Teachers are using the STEM curriculum provided by Fork Farms in partnership with FIRST Educational Resources. The curriculum lessons are designed to assist students in developing a deeper understanding and connection to hydroponic growing.

In Graff's classroom, students conducted experiments with lettuce seeds planted in the Flex Farm. The experiments involved understanding the variables necessary to keep a plant alive (light, nutrients, space, water and air). Students were encouraged to test their hypothesis and record their findings. In addition to STEM learning in the classroom, Graff wanted to incorporate lessons on civic engagement and social responsibility..

"Students brainstormed ideas on what we can do with the lettuce that is grown in our classroom. Together, they decided on donating it to a local food pantry to benefit people within our community," Graff said. "The food pantry is the West Suburban Food Pantry. The staff there have expressed how much the individuals receiving food enjoy the fresh produce. They are so happy to have things that aren't in season locally but can be grown indoors using the Flex Farm."

Alex Tyink, president of Fork Farms is excited about the positive outcomes at Woodridge Elementary.

"It is amazing to see all the different ways students are engaged in the classroom because of the Flex Farm. Teachers everywhere are coming up with new, creative ways to incorporate key learnings through hands-on education" said Tyink. "Not only are students being exposed to STEM-based learning, but they are also learning how to be responsible stewards of their own bodies, our planet and communities. That is really special and inspiring."

On Thursday, Oct. 10, staff from the West Suburban Food Pantry visited elementary students to share the positive impact their lettuce is having on the community.

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