By Amanda Moses
Since the start of the pandemic, Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman has been hosting virtual lessons for students in the Spring Creek After School Program, Teen Central, and the Starrett City Judo Club. In doing so, she has developed an exploratory, nutritional, and scientific program that incorporates all facets of gardening.
This winter, Roytman began her digital lessons with students at Abe Stark Primary School (PS) 346. Facilitated by Principal, Jabari K. Edwards, both remote learners and blended classes were able to have sessions with Roytman, via Google Meet, so that they could learn all about gardening and the environment.
One lesson focused on creating their very own hydroponic planter. Hydroponics is the process of growing a plant using water and a variety of mediums rather than soil, such as peat moss. The planter Roytman asked her students to create utilizes capillary action, which is the process of absorbing water from a base of an object and filtering upwards.
Prior to the lesson, Roytman dropped off several bags filled with supplies for the students’ parents to pick up at PS 346. Each container held: peat moss, pearlite, tiny plastic cups, and seeds. During the virtual lesson, the fourth graders were asked to grab a bowl, jar or glass, scissors, tissue/cloth, a cellophane wrap or Ziploc, and a rubber band.
“Place the peat moss into the bowl and then add the pearlite. Mix it together with your hands and add one tablespoon of water. It should feel soft and take shape when you squeeze it,” Roytman instructed.
While some students enjoyed the feeling of “clean dirt” beneath their fingertips, others were not happy about the mess it left behind.
“Even though it feels nasty in my hands, it is really fun,” Cayla Elliott exclaimed while placing the mixture into a small plastic cup. Aiden McSam nodded in agreement, “It does feel weird and fun at the same time when mixing the soil.”
The next step required a glass or jar and piece of tissue/cloth. The students cut two long strips of cloth, placing it halfway into the plastic cup, allowing it to still dangle along the side of it. As the children followed Roytman’s instructions, their teacher Ms. Jessica Wortman helped those who had trouble with the project.
Gently placing a few lettuce seeds into the peat moss mixture, the children then wrapped the cellophane around the small plastic cup. Using a rubber band, tightly sealed it closed, and poked about four holes into the plastic wrap for aeration.
Once they concluded this process, Roytman asked the class to add water halfway into the cup or jar, placing the plastic cup on top of the container so that it is not submerged in the water. Only a portion of the cloth strips should be allowed to soak.
“You have to watch it every day, as soon as you see it sprout you should take off the cover,” Roytman said. “Right now, in order for the seeds to germinate they must stay in a warm and moist environment.”
Screenshots by Amanda Moses