GLACIER GK-12‎ > ‎

Sustainability Project

Engineering Activity

DESIGN A SUSTAINABLE GROWING SYSTEM

Essential Question: How are you growing the food in a sustainable way?

Prior background:

Before the project begins, students should…

·      Have explored the question of what is living vs. nonliving and what living things need to survive.

·      Have some experience germinating seeds and growing plants (beans, radishes, etc.).

 

 

Growing the Food

Problem Statement: Create a system for growing the most amount of lettuce, in the smallest amount of space, using the least input of additional energy and resources. This system should be easy to use and maintain.

 

Step 1 - Identify the need or problem:

·      Food production is increasingly material- and energy-intensive. Population pressures are making this problem worse. Is it possible for urban dwellers to help solve this problem by growing their own fresh produce?

 

Step 2 – Research the Need or Problem:

·      Food footprint and population pressures (“Omnivore’s Dilemma”; “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”; ecological footprint resources; other web resources)

·      Nutrient Cycles and Energy Cycles (textbook)

·      Specific information about the plant to be grown (web or other resources)

 

Step 3 – Develop Possible Solutions:

·      Given a set of constraints (limited space, limited materials, seeds, soil, etc.), create a system for growing lettuce. In this project, the materials are constrained, and the students design the growing space.

·      Problem Statement: Create a system for growing the most amount of lettuce, in the smallest amount of space, using the least input of additional energy and resources. This system should be easy to use and maintain.

o   Space Limitations: ½ meter x ½ meter x ½ meter cube

o   Materials Limitations:

-    One ½ gallon cardboard milk or juice carton

-    Specific volume of soil/compost mixture

-    Sand and gravel as desired

-    String, duct tape, hole punch, utility knives, scissors, large paper clips, etc. (some students may choose to use a hanging system)

 

Step 4 – Select the Best Possible Solution:

·      Each student comes up with a solution. They present their ideas to the group, and each group comes up with a single solution to pursue.

·      Each group then presents their ideas to the class. After sharing and discussing these ideas, groups may choose to modify their solution.

·      Draw scaled and annotated diagrams of the design idea.

·      Create a plan for maintaining the system. This includes a proposed watering schedule.

·      Create a plan for collecting data to evaluate the success of the system. This may include: number of plants, soil testing for specific nutrients (pH, K, N, P), rates of growth, number of leaves, biomass grown, biomass removed, taste.

·      Create a data collection chart.


Step 5 – Construct a Prototype:

·      Assemble the system and begin monitoring the development of the plants. Being sure to emphasize that students should be documenting changes to their original design and maintenance plan.


Step 6 – Test and Evaluate:

·      As students proceed through this project, they continue to collect data and document modifications.

·      A “salad fest” may be an appropriate data collection activity, and will allow for a taste comparison between systems.

 

Step 7 – Communicate the Solution:

·      Report/ Presentation on the pro’s/con’s of design. Clearly this can be shaped however the teacher wants. This is a good place to emphasize the use of quantitative data (through graphs, etc.) in evaluating the success of the project.

·      Evaluate the sustainability of the system

·      Evaluate how much energy and materials input was needed to grow the plants

·      Evaluate the energy/materials input into the parts of the system (over the lifetime of the products used). 

·      Evaluate ease of use and maintenance of this system, thinking about its application in an urban household.

 

Step 8 – Redesign:

·      Plan out a redesign. Run controlled experiment changing different features of the system.  

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