Just a few blocks from downtown Ypsilanti is a farm where children of all ages explore nature and learn about how food grows. Growing Hope’s Urban Farm and Demonstration Gardens is an acre of vegetable and flower beds, two hoop houses and a children’s garden. There is even an outdoor adobe pizza oven and a bicycle blender that makes fresh fruit smoothies.
This year, Growing Hope is integrating STEM curriculum into their garden-based lessons. Working with science teachers from across Ypsilanti and Southeast Michigan to develop interactive garden lessons that build from science, math and technology, students will learn about botany through exploring different parts of a plant, and about geometry through figuring out where to place seedlings in a square foot garden.
Mitchell Elementary Comes to Growing Hope
In Spring 2018, students from Ann Arbor’s Mitchell Elementary visited the Growing Hope Urban Farm. Sixty fifth graders tasted fresh herbs from the youth garden and harvested spinach from the hoophouse to make smoothies using the bike blender. The students also studied how weather like frost, rain, and drought affects a garden.
“Coming out to the farm was a multi-sensory experience, the students got to see, taste, smell and feel all the plants growing on the farm,” says Mitchell fifth grade teacher Mr. Popkey, who accompanied his students to Growing Hope last spring. “While reading and learning in the classroom is important, the experience of seeing it with your own eyes has a magic and power all its own.”
Innovative Learning on the Farm
Growing Hope’s newest project is an aquaponics systems where students can explore how fish supply nutrients for aquaponic plants, which in turn purify the water. Growing Hope is partnering with Dr. Ronald Eglash, a University of Michigan professor, to start doing “generative STEM”, a method developed to attract more underrepresented students to STEM education by connecting the concepts to their own culture and heritage.
“When STEM innovation serves community initiatives like Growing Hope, we not only attract more underrepresented youth, we are also directing the power of science and technology where it is needed most,” said Dr. Eglash.
When kids get outdoors in the garden they are more engaged in their learning and just have more fun. At Growing Hope they are working every day to bring more students to the farm to provide hands on STEM lessons and, of course, to get those hands in the dirt.