Hydroponics Head of Class

Students at Chiles Elementary are learning how to grow lettuce, but not the way you might think. Sharon Cutler is teaching students how to grow lettuce hydroponically, not only that she is teaching them how to do so while reducing their carbon footprint. Cutler is using the money she received from a $1000 grant from general motors and discovery education. She was among 40 educators in the U.S. to be named winners of the live green teacher grant program. “General Motors and Discovery Education are interested in empowering educators to develop creative ideas for furthering environmental and energy sustainability,” said Stephen Wakefield, communications manager for Discovery Education. “We found out it cost $1,000 a year for lettuce,” she said. “I want them to learn that we can grow our own lettuce for less while consuming unconventional energy.” The Hydroponic garden is in a screened lanai that she and students built last year to raise butterfly larvae. When the kit was purchased it was being used to grow sunflowers, but will now be used to grow lettuce to feed the turtles, and some 50 rodents and reptiles that reside in the classroom. The hydroponics pumps are powered by an array of solar panels. “It’s very cool,” said Lynn Chen, a 10-year-old fifth grader. “If you put your hand in front of the light,” blocking the solar panels, “then energy doesn’t transfer to the pipes.” Cutlers grant applications have brought in over $5000 in the past year, and is currently applying for another $1000 grant to set-up another solar hydroponic garden.