Urban Farming: The education version
Union City is an urban metropolis located in northern NJ and right across the river from the biggest urban area, NYC. It is a predominantly latino area with most of the student population coming from low socio-economic backgrounds. However, the school district is the life and heartbeat of the community as it serves and provides students with a great academics and the latest in technology. Union City, which was labeled an “Abbot” district in the eyes of the state of NJ, is one of the most successful school districts, not only in NJ, but nation wide.
I have had the pleasure of organizing, creating, and running the Union City Summer STEM Camps ( http://mrnavasuc.wixsite.com/ucsummerstem ) which was designed to expose our students to STEM ideas and technologies. At STEM camp, one of our classes is “sustainability” which leads discussions and activities that deal with energies and the environment. One of the last activities discussed is urban farming and how it applies to the Union City Community. The project for this discussion is to use 3dponics.com and create a simple hydroponic system. This past summer, we 3D Printed a hydroponic drip system as an urban farm. This system has caught the eye of many community people and organizations.
Being involved with the TED Ed community and going through some of the well thought out exploration lessons provided to our cohort, I came across the TED Video A Garden In My Apartment by Britta Riley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhvfOlPYifY). In this video, Britta talks about growing foods in her apartment by utilizing a vertical drip system. When I saw this, my wheels began to immediately start turning! I began to think about Union City and the many apartment buildings that food can be growing in to give the community some fresh “homemade” options of food. The faces of our many students and their lack of greens in their diets began to move in my head and the possibility to change the culture of their diets. I wanted to take a simple idea from Summer STEM camp, and spread it to other teachers and students across the globe.
Educating our children about urban farming involves so much more than the growing of a few vegetables. There are economic ties, STEM ideas and concepts, design thinking, and, in my opinion the most important, empathy. A project like this can allow a teacher/facilitator to touch upon numerous subjects and standards while providing the students with a problem based project that involves community assistance. Through the development of using a classroom 3D printer, students across the country can begin to grow food in their classrooms and begin to do some amazing things with the products. They can begin to design their own systems or improve on some existing ones. This can lead to the discussion of mindful eating, along with the importance of organic and balanced diets. It can help with creating “Living edible classroom” where students are surrounded by natures gift of abundance and provide students everywhere with the idea of better living!