Health in Motion: East Union Intermediate Center
This article is part of a series called Health in Motion brought to you by Let’s Move Pittsburgh. Health in Motion is intended to showcase the efforts of schools and community organizations in the Pittsburgh region that are leading children to a healthier future. A new project with a guest author or interviewee will be featured each month. Let’s Move Pittsburgh hopes that Health in Motion will encourage leaders to adopt healthy programs in their communities and inspire readers to make healthy changes in their own lives.
My name is Sherry Soxman and I am a 3rd grade science, math and social studies teacher at East Union Intermediate Center in the Deer Lakes School District. Last spring I had heard about these indoor standing gardens that didn’t require any soil and used aeroponics to grow fruits and vegetables. I already have an outside courtyard where my students and I grow fruits and vegetables and maintain a variety of perennials and a weeping cherry tree. The downfall of an outside courtyard is that the growing season depends on the weather, and by the time the fruits and vegetables that my students planted in the spring are ready for harvest, those students have moved on to 4th grade and I have a new set of students. So when, Becky Rinker, a parent, member of our parent/teacher group LPEP (Lancer Parent Educator Partnership), and a representative for Tower Gardens, asked me if I would be willing to write a grant for Let’s Move Pittsburgh to be able to bring a Tower Garden to our school for our 3rd grade team, I was all for it!
The anticipation quickly grew once my students and I discussed ALL of the healthy foods and their nutritional values that a single Tower Garden could bring to our classroom. Only a few months later the news finally arrived that we were not only given the grant by Let’s Move Pittsburgh (Yea!), but we were recognized as a Champion School! Our K - 2 grade school, Curtisville Primary Center, was awarded this wonderful grant as well and had already purchased their Tower Garden as part of our school-wide health initiative. This was incredibly exciting for our students, who were eager to learn all the healthy benefits that a year-round indoor garden could bring to our classroom.
They wasted no time in not only helping to build our Tower Garden, but also wanting to learn everything there is to know about maintaining and sustaining the garden. My students are completely responsible for the daily care and upkeep of our 3rd grade Tower Gardens. They take turns maintaining water-levels by filling the containers and logging when and how much water they add. They measure, add minerals and then log when and how much was added, as well as check the pH weekly and balance the levels when they are off. All data, measurements and details are recorded in our log book. The students rotate and take turns showing each new group of students how to check and maintain the Tower Gardens, as well as plant and germinate seeds after we harvest.
We have had two grade-level harvests where the students enjoyed bibbed lettuce, mixed springs and strawberry vinaigrette salad during lunch. We’ve also had four in-class taste-tests, which included a variety of: lettuce, rainbow chard and even bok choy!
Our 3rd grade classrooms used the overgrown arugula leaves to make rubbings, then measured the length and width of their leaf rubbings. They also estimated and measured the lengths of four fully grown lettuce roots. The group that was the closest picked a prize! My students are happy to report that we currently have green peppers, spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes and sugar snap peas growing in our Tower Garden!