- Sponsorship -

Hydroponics Adds Year-round Gardening, Science

Jayden Irish used a cotton swab to pollinate a flowering plant. The Kelloggsville Middle School seventh-grader will soon be rewarded with the fruits of his labor: tomatoes, but for now he’s thinking about the future of indoor gardening.

In the classroom’s climate-controlled garden, Jayden explained why hydroponics, growing plants without soil, is important for the planet. Planting vertically saves a lot of land, he said.

Mykal Green tests pH levels
Mykal Green tests pH levels

The school’s hydroponic gardening program gives students a real-world example of how a pesticide-free, year-round yield of plants can help feedthe planet. “We learn how we get our food, and where our food comes from,” Jayden said.

The program, funded through a State Farm service-learning grant for sustainable urban agriculture projects, has grown over the past few years to include flourishing indoor gardens at each grade level, a fish pond where tilapia waste returns to plants as fertilizer, and a bounty of fresh peppers, cilantro, basil and ripe red tomatoes can be sent home with students.

“A 4-foot-by 4-foot garden like this could feed a family of four,” said Bridgette Ujlaky, owner of Horizen Hydroponics, who works with Kelloggville students and teachers on their program.

Green Learning Opportunities

Cross-curricular lessons are perfect for budding scientists, engineers, chemists and even chefs, said seventh-grade science teacher Lynnea Roon. Students have learned pollination, transpiration, plant parts, photosynthesis and weather and humidity, all in the classroom garden.

In Marcia Cisler’s eighth-grade classroom, students stay busy tending plants by checking pH level and electro-conductivity, as well as trimming and harvesting the plants. Ten tilapia live in an aquaponics system, creating a symbiotic relationship with the gardens. Water from the fish pond is fed to the plants, which provides nutrients. The water is recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

“It’s cool. The fish and plants help each other out,” said eighth-grader Mykal Green.

Allison Truskowski uses supplies to measure nutrients
Allison Truskowski uses supplies to measure nutrients

Ujlaky visits regularly to help tend the gardens with students and teach them about the system. She and her husband, John Ujlaky, have made it their mission to educate people about indoor gardening and help it become a mainstream part of kindergarten-through high-school education.

Traditional farming and over-spraying can lead to soil depletion and require a lot more water than with hydroponics, she said, where crops can grow year-round.

“The commercial applications for hydroponics really are the future of farming,” Ujlaky said. “In bringing this type of program into schools, we are giving them a skill set they can use for future work development and opportunities.”


Hydroponics Fun Facts and Figures

Horizen Hydroponics

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...

Rain gutter regatta showcases buoyancy, engineering skills

An annual boat race has become a highlight of sixth-grade science class. At stake: bragging rights and 'a goofy trophy'...

The Hood family: a school & community leadership dynasty

Five generations have lived within a five- to six-mile radius dating back to a government work program in the 1930s...

The sky’s the limit (or is it?) for this accomplished model builder

Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This series features students with exceptional and unusual gifts...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Pieces of past Rocket pride remain part of the present

The history of the district is preserved in a six-panel history wall at the high school...

Have cart, will travel

A Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary music teacher has a new cart for her ukuleles, thanks to her school, her husband and the Kent Career Tech Center...

Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

New temporary school building closures were announced by nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU