HAMMOND | Children of Purdue University Calumet’s Charlotte Riley Child Center have been learning about hydroponic gardening thanks to a “Healthy Sprouts” grant the center received from Subaru of America and the National Gardening Association.
Hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in water. Through AeroGrow, a type of hydroponic gardening enabling indoor plant growth anytime of the year, water circulates within a unit, artificial sunlight is provided and nutrients are utilized so plants have an optimal environment to grow, according to PUC Child Center Director Tamra Bottomlee.
Children were introduced to hydroponic gardening to grow starts for outdoor garden boxes. Earlier this year, children and their teachers planted starts from sunflowers, corn and tomatoes.
“Children assisted in planting the new vegetable starts," Bottomlee said. "We then added soil and then tilled the garden boxes.”
In addition to fostering enthusiasm for gardening and plant development, the children have engaged in a team approach to develop appreciation for the environment, she added.
“The children have learned that some herb plants return for another growing season,” Bottomlee said. “Introduction to new vocabulary words connects literacy with nature. The children now want to know more about 'annuals' and 'perennials'.”
The $600 grant package the center received included a gift card from the Gardening with Kids online store, curriculum from the National Gardening Association, a hand tool set, gloves and a Plantcam.
Responsibilities of grant recipients include providing photos of the children participating in the program and completing a summary of their accomplishments, as well as the impact the grant has had on the center’s gardening program.
The PUC center is among 50 grant recipients selected from 800 applications submitted.