By Anne Hassler Heidel
The hydroponic garden tower in Mr. Peters’ fourth grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary looks like something that should be on a space station orbiting the earth with its grow lights and slick, white components sprouting a variety of vegetables and herbs.
The students in the class are well-versed in how the tower works and each one is responsible for a different pod that they planted. They go around the room telling what they planted – “Chives! Basil! Grand Rapids bib lettuce!” Both Kales answer that they planted kale.
One student tells how it is her job to check the pH level of the water in the base tank. “It should be in the mid area on the scale. If it’s low then it’s acidic and if it’s high it’s base,” she explains. She knows what to add to correct any imbalance.
When asked if any of them want to plant their own garden at home sometime, all of their hands shoot up. In addition to making a classroom salad, the greens are used to feed the class tortoise Yoda.
Brian Peters said the kids have used the tower to not only learn about plant life but to learn about making healthy eating choices.
The tower, which Principal Cody Rierson said cost in the neighborhood of $1,100 was bought entirely by donations.
“Peg Ball was the real driving force behind this. She helped find donors and even found a matching donor with McPherson Concrete,” Rierson said. He hopes the school can purchase more towers for other classrooms with more donations. Other donors in addition to Ball and McPherson Concrete are Viega, Graber Ace Hardware, Dr. Ken Cotton, D.D.S., Wise and Reber, WELCO Services, Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd, Ameriprise Financial, and Enquist Tractor.