|Green fingers: Students work in the garden during breaks. Photo Phương Vy
by Thu Hằng
Fifth-grader Huỳnh Ngọc Thảo has learned how to grow plants in an unconventional way by watering, tending and harvesting organic vegetables in a greenhouse on her school’s rooftop in HCM City.
“At home, my mom grows plants in pots with soil. But I prefer aquaponic gardening as I can raise fish and grow plants at the same time without using toxic chemicals. It’s really enjoyable,” Thảo said.
“This method teaches me skills in farming and teamwork, too,” she added.
Hydroponics uses mineral nutrient solutions in water and involves no soil, according to Đỗ Thanh Nhàn, a fifth-grade teacher at Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Primary School in HCM City’s District 4.
Fish and vegetables are raised together in a sustainable closed model.
“We can raise fish and grow plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water where the fish live,” Nhàn told a group of students enrolled in the extracurricular gardening work.
“Watering and fertilising are integral to an aquaponics system,” he added.
On an area of 50 square metres on the rooftop, groups of students learn both traditional soil-based gardening and aquaponic gardening.
The school garden model, the first of its kind in the city, kicked off in October, Phạm Thúy Hà, rector of the school, said.
|Growing gardeners: Đỗ Thanh Nhàn, a fifth-grade teacher at Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Primary School in HCM City’s District 4, gives instructions on how to grow plants in a greenhouse. Photo Thu Hằng
After two months, the school garden has yielded positive results, with dozens of organic vegetables harvested, Hà said.
Students work in the garden during breaks and, in return, receive a nutritious lunch, she said.
The rest of the fruit and veg is sold to teachers and parents to buy seeds and soil.
“It is important to show children that gardening benefits their health and broadens their education as well as raises their awareness of environmental protection,” Hà said.
“Students also become more knowledgeable about natural processes and learn teamwork, besides new skills in growing food,” she added.
Lettuce, basil, tomatoes, chili, sprouts, eggplants and cabbages are grown in the greenhouse, Hoàng Ngọc Minh Anh, a fourth-grade student, said.
“Every day, my friends and I come to the rooftop to water the garden and feed fish. It makes me feel happy to see them growing,” the girl said. “Gardening provides food sources and makes the environment fresh and clean.”
Students take turns to participate in gardening, with groups of 20 students chosen each time.
Nhàn, who was trained in greenhouse gardening along with four other teachers, said the garden is “a good way to connect students with the natural world and teach them agricultural concepts and skills”.
“Gardening in a greenhouse also serves as scientific research for students,” he said.
The rector said the school would maintain the garden as a learning space for students and source of food.
Nguyễn Văn Hiếu, deputy director of the city’s Department of Education and Training, said the aquaponic model would be introduced to other primary schools in the city. VNS