STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The acronym is used across the United States in regards to the support of education in such fields of study. In today’s progressively technological world, the U.S. is lacking enough qualified candidates to fulfill the growing number of high tech jobs. International results show that in the past several years, American students have been scoring significantly lower than their foreign counterparts in science and math. If this trend keeps up, the National Commission on Mathematics and Science reports that by 2018, the U.S. may be three million high skilled workers short (1). These alarming statistics are proof that the U.S. education system must make a change. STEM programs are about integrating these four key subjects into America’s school curriculums.
The STEM Garden Institute promotes STEM through the platform of hydroponics gardening. Co-founders Gerry and Janet Lorden have worked since 2010 to assemble a team with extensive experience in the areas of curriculum development, emerging innovative technologies, non-profit and municipal leadership to ensure it’s successful implementation. Through hydroponics, children and adults are introduced to the four key disciplines of STEM by learning about growth through solar energy, soil chemistry, photosynthesis, water purification, etc..
Furthermore, STEM Garden Institute provides students an opportunity to walk away with an understanding of more than just the core competencies of STEM. The byproducts of STEM Garden Institute are that it exposes students to a number of additional capabilities. Children gain entrepreneur skills by selling their creations at local farmers markets, learn how to work as a team by building a hydroponic system with their peers and become aware of the importance of nutrition by cultivating their very own food. Moreover, by establishing a common cause, STEM Garden Institute instills a sense of community within our towns and in our schools.
Hydroponics is essentially a method of growing plants that uses water instead of soil. Aquiculture, as it is also known, cultivates plants by growing them in water in which nutrients are dissolved.
But why use water instead of soil? you may ask. There are numerous advantages ranging from nutritional to economical. To name a few, hydroponics are:
The water in this system is recycled and as a result hydroponics use just 5% of the normal water requirement for field crops.
No harmful herbicides or pesticides are needed.
Hydroponic plants can be grown indoors or outdoors and can work in a variety of environments: urban, suburban, countryside, desert etc.
Compared to field agriculture, operating and capital costs are significantly lower. Transportation costs are also lower which all in all results in more affordable fruits and vegetables.
Due to the resourcefulness of hydroponics, this method of gardening can be easily upheld for years to come.
The need for a healthier and more efficient food supply method is urgent:
– Over one third of American adults are obese (2) due to the overly processed and refined foods that grocery stores nationwide sell.
– The U.S. imports about 15% of its food and over 80% of its seafood. Since the 1970s, the rate of U.S. food imports has risen steadily to meet current demands. For example, the U.S. imports ten times more oranges than it did 20 years ago from countries like South Africa, Mexico, Chile and Australia (3).
Hydroponic gardening could be a part of the solution to the food industry crisis that America is currently facing. Perhaps one of the biggest byproducts of the STEM Garden Institute is that it is familiarizing our youth with an healthful and economic method of gardening that could be another strategy to address the problem.