An educational enrichment program teaching kids how to grow food, providing opportunities to visit farms, and learning to protect the land that sustains our health and that of the planet.
Today students are more preoccupied with PlayStations than playgrounds, Netflix than nature, and fashion than food sources. For children growing up in underserved communities, their education about food-sourcing and how personal choice impacts health has long been vastly inadequate. Through a hands-on approach blending farming, land conservation and social justice, Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF) is inspiring young people to become loyal land guardians, healthier people and protectors of the environment at a time when we face the unparalleled challenge of our changing climate.
Students in the program learn how to grow food sustainably through a dynamic curriculum designed to introduce students to the interconnected world of conservation, nutrition, and the importance of local farms. Overall, Food, Farms and Beyond through the Kids for Conservation Program, provides powerful, memorable experiences, for instance through farm trips that encourage learning through hands-on experiences, equipping students with a deep understanding of the connections among farming, personal nutrition and daily choices, and our earth.
As we face the challenges of COVID-19, many schools are not in the classroom and unable to keep their aeroponic growing towers growing food remotely. After surveying teachers for feedback, MCF plans to move ahead full steam once classes return to in-person instruction. In the meantime, MCF offers virtual presentations to all schools and will provide in-person visits to homeschooling groups upon request.
Monmouth Conservation Foundation is proud to offer the third round of the Tower Garden Grant Program for Middle Schools in Monmouth County expected to launch in Spring 2021 or when an in-class learning environment is resumed for partner schools. This program is perfect for any teacher looking to bring a dynamic new enrichment tool into the classroom! Thanks to funding from The Community Foundation of New Jersey, Monmouth Conservation will underwrite the cost of four aeroponic growing units, known as Tower Gardens, plus provide training, technical assistance and an in-class visit with a local organic farmer and MCF staff to bring the themes of sustainability, conservation, nutrition and organics deeper into the classroom. Additionally, lesson plans and on-farm visits are available to participating classes.
This exciting program will spark the curiosity and excitement of students about growing healthy, fresh, organic foods such as herbs, kale, lettuce, and tomatoes while the classroom receives an innovative, educational tool and program to meet the New Jersey Science Standards through STEM education. The Tower Garden is just the beginning of the amazing journey a teacher can take students on without leaving the classroom. This tool allows students to grow food in the middle of winter and includes grow lights and everything they need to create a lush indoor garden.
Tower Gardens employs aeroponic technology to grow plants in an air or mist environment rather than soil. Aeroponic systems use water, liquid nutrients and a soilless growing medium to quickly and efficiently grow nutrient-rich produce. This form of growing uses 98% less water than traditional agriculture while growing organic produce 30% faster. During the 2018/2019 school year, MCF donated six aeroponic growing towers to middle schools in Monmouth County (schools were located in Asbury Park, Holmdel, Howell, Highlands, Neptune, and Red Bank). In Fall 2020, MCF welcomed four new schools into the program (Eatontown, Long Branch, Neptune City and Little Silver). We look forward to offering grants and program experiences to additional schools in Spring 2021 or when in-class sessions return.
Ready to learn more? Watch this presentation below to learn more about how Tower Gardens work.
“They LOVED it! The Tower Garden really sparked them.” explained Ms. Kristen Mariello, Science teacher at Red Bank Middle School about her experience with the students’ reaction to having the Tower Garden in their classroom.
For more information about our Sustainable Gardens in the Classroom and Monmouth Conservation Foundation, please click: