GROVE CITY – Part of Grove City High School is coming alive with plants, fish and lessons about sustainability.
Tucked away at the end of a hallway is a former storage room that houses the first project of Community Agriculture class: growing food with hydroponics and aquaponics.
“I’m just happy to have it,” said junior Luke Tubbs, 17.
The new class, which is an elective, is taught by science teacher Will Logan, and it’s wrapping up its first semester.
Logan loves gardening is excited to be able to offer the class. He bought some of the materials and was awarded a grant.
The inaugural class has eight students, and most of them weren’t familiar with hydroponics and aquaponics at first.
“I was confused but also intrigued,” Luke said of the setup.
Hydroponics uses water and nutrients to grow plants instead of placing them in the ground, said senior Lillian Panazzi, 17.
Aquaponics adds fish to the process, and you have more control over what’s going into the plants, Logan said.
The class has 55 White Nile tilapia in a 300-gallon tank that is connected to the tubs where the plants are thriving underneath multiple grow lights.
The waste from the fish acts as a fertilizer, and it’s a good example of sustainable gardening, Logan said.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and kale have been steadily growing.
The students also tried the Kratky method, also called the “bucket method,” of hydroponics at home – the same concept on a smaller scale.
“They grew out of control,” senior Eva King, 18, laughed about the lettuce she grew at home.
She’s appreciative of the efforts that Logan put into the class, which she said has been fun.
Senior Chloe Lenkner, 18, said her younger brother is excited to take the class during the 2021-22 school year.
“I think this is really neat,” she said, adding that the system can also be used to grow flowers and herbs.
Senior Ashleigh Frost, 18, said the basil she grew at home “exploded,” and she’s trying to figure out how to use it up.
Senior Serenity Dailey, 17, said she really enjoyed the class, especially since it’s so hands-on, and she’s been sharing information with her family.
Logan will look after the plants over the summer as well as the pollinator garden and raised beds the class started just outside the hydroponics room.
He hopes to add more windows to the room, expand the system, set up rain barrels outside, organize field trips and guest speakers, and work on making the school green-certified.
“And we’ve talked about maybe raising a few chickens,” he said.
The fish can be consumed, and he is interested in selling vegetable starters and flower plugs from the class as a fundraiser and give some of the produce to the cafeteria for school lunches.
The program of studies for next school year says the class will also study topics like plant anatomy, composting, cloning, insects and other growing methods.