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Seventh-Graders Utilize STEAM Skills to Address World Hunger and Aid North Hills Community Outreach

North Hills Middle School seventh-grade students this year were asked “How to Feed the World?” as part of the building’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) program.

The STEAM program allows students involved in various subject areas such as art, family and consumer sciences and technology education to work on a large-scale, integrated project that utilizes technical aspects from each course while reinforcing life skills such as teamwork and communication.

To start the project, students were given the following problem.

"The United Nations projects the world’s population will increase to 9.1 billion people by 2050. To feed all of these people, food production will need to increase by 70 percent. In the past, humans have always turned to agricultural expansion, but we can no longer afford the loss of whole ecosystems around the globe. Find a way to feed the world without taking any more land for agriculture and livestock."

Each group, consisting of one student from each of the trimester courses, developed a solution to the problem and detailed it a digital presentation such as a Touchcast, Prezi or iMovie.

Two solutions - a hydroponic system and aquaponic system - were selected as the best options for hands on learning from all the researched possibilities. The purchase of each system was aided by a Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway Partner mini-grant totaling $3,000.

The hydroponic system is a true "water-culture" system in which plant roots are suspended in a rapidly flowing stream of oxygen-infused nutrient. The aquaponic system is an organic gardening system that has been designed to grow plants and fish, year-round. An aquaponic system grows plants using organic nutrients supplied by fish growing in an adjoining tank.

Utilizing skills from each of their trimester courses, students will complete the hands-on portion of their STEAM project this spring. They will grow vegetables and flowers using the two systems. The flowers will be transplanted to the clay pots constructed in art class. Then, students will use Tinkercad, a 3D computer aided design software, in technology education class to design and 3D print Mother’s Day tags for the flowers. Vegetable seedlings will be donated to North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) for their community garden, which provides fresh produce for the charity’s two food banks. The flowers will be sold at Arts Alive on May 6 with proceeds benefiting NHCO.

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