Hydroponics brings gardening to the classroom – Sioux Falls Argus Leader

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A $5,000 grant allowed an Oscar Howe teacher to build a hydroponics system.

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Linda Pinz-Valdez wants all of her fifth-grade students to end the coming year with a salad.

They just need to grow the vegetables first.

Pinz-Valdez, a teacher at Oscar Howe Elementary in Sioux Falls, will have a hydroponics system installed in her classroom, thanks to a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant. The 8-foot structure allows plants to grow without soil.

“The purpose for this is so students can understand that plants get so much more of what they need from the air and the sun than from the dirt,” Pinz-Valdez said.

Her inspiration for the project came from a student, who in a final report this spring explained that “some” plants can grow without soil. The report followed an experiment in which students grew a lima bean plant in a cup of water.

Pinz-Valdez didn’t want her students to think that just the “weird” plant can grow without nutrients. She wanted the experiment to resonate closer to home.

“I wanted that demonstration that many different plants can grow that way (without soil),” Pinz-Valdez said, adding that she wants students to see plants they recognize and eat grow through hydroponics.