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Hydroponic gardening programmes 'can engage students in science'

18/05/2017 Kelly

Schools that run hydroponic gardening programmes for primary school students could see better engagement with science learning, according to new research.

A study by Boston College's Lynch School of Education has highlighted a number of educational benefits to running hands-on lessons on how to grow plants using hydroponic techniques, which forego the use of soil in favour of mineral nutrient solutions and water solvents.

For this research, 234 primary school-aged Boston-area students were asked to take part in an after-school programme where they grew fruits and vegetables using hydroponic methods, with the results showing that students experienced not only an increased interest in science, but improvements in their mental health.

The programme was shown to foster positive attitudes toward science, reduced anxiety and greater self-confidence, with benefits seen for boys and girls, and even for non-native English speakers - despite the programme not being tailored to meet their needs.

Other benefits of the hydroponics scheme included its suitability for settings that do not have the physical space or climate to conduct outdoor gardening, as well as the fact that the programme proved easy for instructors to implement, even among teachers with little experience in the field of science.

The researchers now wish to develop their understanding further by studying which specific aspects of the programme led to the positive changes in student attitudes toward science.

Study leader Michael Barnett, professor of science education at the Lynch School of Education, said: "The elementary version of our hydroponics curriculum could be easily and successfully implemented across teachers and contexts. This is a very exciting finding as that suggests the hydroponics curriculum can be scaled to any number of contexts where teachers have little science, or teaching, experience."

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