The hydroponic greenhouse at school
A new way to observe and study a natural phenomenon
As part of the project Maker@Scuola: new technologies for education, the INDIRE researchers have started the pilot project “The hydroponic greenhouse at school “A new way to observe and study a natural phenomenon”. This activity envisages the use of the hydroponic greenhouse, an off-soil cultivation technique, with low environmental impact, characterised by low water consumption. This research makes use of this tool to start an innovative teaching laboratory and introduce the scientific method in the class.
Hydroponics is the art of growing plants in water. The word comes from the Greek root “hydro”- water and “pónos”- work, fatigue. Hydroculture is an off-soil cultivation technique with low environmental impact. In Hydroponics cultivations the soil is replaced with an inert medium. The plant produces roots in water added with the nutrients and the oxygen necessary for its growth. The process envisages the monitoring of all the physical and environmental conditions, where plants live, and of the factors affecting their growth. The growth speed depends on many factors, including: air temperature, light intensity, water consumption, the nutrients dissolved into the water.
The research is based on the teaching laboratory method already tested by the research group on the use of 3D printers at school, and on the “Bifocal modelling“, a new framework for inquiry-driven science learning developed by Stanford University. The observation of the physical phenomenon is carried out in parallel with theoretical modelling in order to familiarise with the most common methods of scientific research.
In 2017, an infant school and a primary school in Firenze have been actively involved in the experimentation of the project with hydroponic greenhouses built in the schools. The class activates include a scientific investigation split into an inductive phase (observation and hypothesis formulation) and a deductive phase (verification and theoretical formulation). This activity promotes hypothesis formulation in order to create a basic scientific model, based on the direct observation and control of a natural phenomenon. It also stimulates a critical reflection on environmental sustainability, and in particular, on natural resources availability and food waste.