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Mother's Day flower sale to benefit North Hills Community Outreach

| Sunday, April 24, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
North Hills Middle School students work on plants to be sold during the school district’s Arts Alive event.

Instead of selling seedlings for Mother's Day, North Hills students will sell flowers they grew during an alternative agriculture lesson.

As part of North Hills Middle School's STEAM (science technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) program this past school year, seventh-graders were asked to solve a real-world problem: How to increase food production by 70 percent over the next 35 years in order to feed the estimated 9.1 billion people who will be populating the earth by 2050.

“We divided the students into groups and gave them parameters. We told them they couldn't just take more land and increase farming. They had to find ways to do something different,” said Jason Beall, assistant principal at the middle school.

The students researched and brainstormed ideas, then decided to focus on two viable solutions — hydroponic agriculture, in which plant roots are suspended in a rapidly flowing stream of oxygen-infused nutrient, and aquaponic agriculture, in which plants are grown in water, utilizing organic nutrients supplied by fish.

“The Carnegie Science Center gave us a grant for $3,000 and we got another grant from PPG for $1,000 to purchase the (hydroponic and aquaponic) systems,” Beall said. “Each is a non-traditional aquarium, more like a pond.”

Using the two systems, students will grow 60 cabbages, 60 heads of lettuce, and 90 flowering plants.

The cabbages, lettuce, and seedlings will be donated to North Hills Community Outreach.

The flowers will be transplanted to clay pots handcrafted by art class students. Students in technology education classes will then use 3D computer-aided design software to create and produce Mother's Day tags for the pots.

The potted flowers will be available for purchase during the May 6 Arts Alive event at the high school. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to North Hills Community Outreach.

“Our hope is to find ways to utilize these (agricultural systems) from year to year, whether it's growing pepper plants or other produce. Perhaps we can donate actual produce (to North Hills Community Outreach) so they have fresh vegetables throughout the year,” Beall said.

“We want to keep the students involved and serving the community. We really want to do something that has benefits beyond the school.”

Laurie Rees

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