US (WA): New hydroponics system benefits West Valley students’ education and nutrition

There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about buying local, and the West Valley School District has taken that to heart, serving lettuce grown by students at Spokane Valley High School.

The school is the proud owner of a new hydroponic growing system that uses circulating water rather than dirt to grow plants, and the first crop of lettuce was harvested in early January. The goal was to provide a hands-on learning system for students rather than relying on textbooks, said teacher Scott Carver.

“The plants are getting all their major macronutrients and all their micronutrients,” he said. “It’s a pretty efficient system. You’re not losing a bunch of water to evaporation. You’re not losing water into the soil.”

Carver had previously taught a hydroponics class more than a decade ago that got a lot of interest from students. But when the hydroponics system wore out, there wasn’t money to replace it.

“We wore that system out completely,” he said. “We were gluing it back together.” Last fall, the district Nutrition Services Supervisor, Kara Carlson, asked Carver if he would like to work with her to apply for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for a new hydroponics system. They were awarded the grant and purchased the new system, which includes a large water tank and a series of trays where plants are grown. The system is in the school’s greenhouse, so plants can be grown year-round.


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