A science instructor at Yadkin Valley Regional Career Academy has won a $4,000 grant to expand the school’s hydroponics program through Lowe’s Toolbox for Education (www.toolboxforeducation.com). Patrick McDade, a graduate of NC State University in his third year of teaching, instructs high school students in Biology and Earth Science at Valley Academy, a public school of choice in Davidson County.
The grant funds will largely be used to construct a high-tech, environmentally-friendly greenhouse on the school’s campus. McDade plans to include not just his science classes in this venture, but also technology, engineering, and computer programming students as well so that more modern growing techniques may be incorporated into their designs. At Valley Academy, creative, innovative problem solving is encouraged and students work collaboratively in a project-based learning environment that emphasizes the Engineering Design Process and 21st century skills.
Students in McDade’s Biology course study global issues that affect the availability of local crops such as water shortages and food deserts and imagine creative solutions. By and large, hydroponics and other alternative crop-growing strategies have risen in popularity as crop conditions become more uncertain. For the past two years, small teams of students have planned and engineered their own hydroponics systems inside McDade’s classroom. The addition of the greenhouse will enable students to build sturdier, larger systems in a protected area with the ability to evolve and improve their systems over time. McDade’s long-term plan is for students’ hydroponics systems to be installed and utilized in various community locations, such as homeless shelters and nursing homes.