It’s important for children – the next generation – to understand that food doesn’t magically appear on grocery store shelves. Growing food takes knowledge and skill, and in an urban environment like Miami, it’s important for our health, as well as the health of the environment, to have locally grown food. Hydroponics, the growing of plants using mineral nutrients and water – without soil – is a sustainable method of food production that provides more opportunties for urban gardening. The Museum has recently built on-site hydroponics exhibits, and now, with grants from the Dunwalke Foundation and the Envionmental Protection Agency, is working to install small hydroponic gardens at local schools. The Museum’s Sara Tomeo, who is leading the project, is working mostly with 4th and 5th grade students from several area elementary schools, including Barbara Hawkins, North Miami, Miami Springs, Mater Academy East, Southside, and Coconut Grove, as well as Nature Links, an organization on Virginia Key that specializes in helping young adults with disabilities.
Teachers at partner schools are encouraged to have groups of students help plant the system, and so far, eager students have done much of the work in setting up many of the systems. The goal is to have students learn to grow their own food throughout the school year, learn where some of the food they eat comes from, and see how different plants grow. Additionally, each school will learn how urban gardening can be applied based on the location of each school. For example, many students in Southside Elementary, located in Brickell, live in high-rise buildings, and this project will teach them that they can have a garden at home - even if they don’t have a yard!
Sara Tomeo has a background in Environmental Design and has worked as an intern at Disney’s “The Land” pavilion at EPCOT, working in hydroponic greenhouses. Sara has now helped to design and build the hydroponic exhibits at the Museum, and will play a role in the Museum’s plans to build aquaponics systems, which is another kind of sustainable food production system involving aquatic life.