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Dr. King Students Learn Hydroponics, Become Garden Ambassadors

This is a photo of a STEAM @ Dr. King student standing next to a plant in a hydroponic tent, checking the water.“Well first, you put seeds in this special wool block and water them.”
The STEAM at Dr. King Garden Ambassadors know their stuff when it comes to gardening!
This year, thanks to grant funding secured by Mike Atkins, and support from several community organizations and higher education institutions, Dr. King students have had some unique opportunities to expand their green thumbs.
The school received a compost system, as well as a hydroponics system, to help expose students to the concepts and experiences of growing their own food and creating a sustainable ecosystem. Their first trial run is growing Buttercrunch Lettuce, which they check on daily – measuring the pH of the water to make sure the plants are staying healthy.
Third, fourth and fifth grade students were encouraged to apply to be the school’s Garden Ambassadors – where they manage the hydroponic system on a daily basis. They learn about the growing cycle, initiate schoolwide composting, and are ready and willing to discuss the program with their classmates and school visitors!
“I wanted to be a Garden Ambassador because I like planting stuff,” fourth grader Reyniel Santos explained. “My grandpa used to plant things and I’d help him in his garden. We planted a star fruit. I’ve learned some cool stuff as a Garden Ambassador – like you can use clay pebbles in the planters to help allow the roots to grow better!”
“I like the composter,” fifth grader Randiyel Santos added. “You can put dead leaves or old fruit in it and in just a few hours, it turns into dirt that we put in our school garden.”
“The kids really like it,” Art teacher Andrea Buckvold, who oversees the school garden and related projects, said. “The goal of these projects is ultimately for the kids in this neighborhood, where there is a food desert, to become interested in growing their own food.”
Ms. Buckvold noted that thank to support from Mr. Atkins and the greater Syracuse community, the program continues to expand. Eventually, the goal is to create similar experiences in SCSD middle and high schools, to create a pipeline that may eventually lead students to have an interest in pursuing higher education studies – or even careers – in sustainability and farming technology. Ms. Buckvold and Mr. Atkins are currently working with professors at Morrisville, where there is already a strong Farming Technology program, to develop their plans and grant proposals for a pollinator garden, a hoop house, and more. They even hope to bring Morrisville students in to speak with Dr. King students about the benefits of the eco-friendly work they’re doing in their school!
Thank you to the Dr. King Garden Ambassadors and all who have helped support this #GreenSCSD project!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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