Great River School Project

Project Description

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Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 6.03.02 PMThe Great River Charter School
St. Paul MN
Micro-Economics 7th-8th Grade, 2007
Omega Garden, Model 10002

The 8th Graders of Eric Lanners micro-economics class had unusual learning experience this year. With the help of a Toshiba grant, they were able to purchase an Omega Garden for use in the classroom. The objectives for the students in this process are to:

  • cultivate usable hydroponic grown foods from seeds to product in a hands-on learning environment
  • assemble, operate, and maintain the cylindrical hydroponics system and growing plants
  • develop and execute commercial plans for selling their food to assist in school budget
  • learn the science of economics.

How They Did It

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 6.06.48 PMOn May 1st, 2007, the Great River School micro-economics class were successfully growing a variety of herbs and plants with the Omega Garden Hydroponic system. All of the hands-on work from assembly to harvest was performed by the students.

Two of the 8th graders, Jeran and Andrew, configured and set up the Omega Garden from the pallet of boxes as they were received. They simply followed the written instructions and watched the included video while at the same time, used some of the mechanical skills taught in their classroom.

Other members of the Great River Growing team, Elijah and Caleb, are responsible for ongoing maintenance of the nutrient and watering delivery. This includes checking and adjusting concentration levels of plant food and keeping the 25 gallon water reservoir full.

Duties shared among the team include, transferring seedlings to rockwool cubes, installing seedling cubes into the Omega Garden, trimming growing plants to improve growth characteristics, and the fun part – harvesting for use!


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In addition to flowers for their parents, the team has also successfully cultivated the following herbs from seed to product:

  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Lettuce
  • Mesclun
  • Cilantro
  • Basil

Notes on the Growing

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.49.48 AM1) The students were impressed at how easy plants grew in the rotary hydroponics. This was in comparison to conventional hydroponics they had on the other side of the room. Many of the seedlings were looking very impoverished but started to grow quickly and stoutly when placed in the Omega.

2) They also assigned letters to each of the 24 growing trays so they could easily record and report on plant statistics such as variety and planting and harvesting times. The Omega Garden Research Team believed this to be an excellent idea and are looking at integrating it into future designs.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.49.41 AM3) Grow lights are kept on for 12 hour intervals and a standard hydroponic nutrient solution (3-1.5-4 nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)) was concentrated to a 900-1100ppm range.

The solution is derived from Fish meal, composted sea bird guano, sea kelp, spirulina, soybean protein extract, rock phosphate, potassium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, calcium carbonate, humic acid, fulvic acid, citric acid, raw sugar cane, Agrimineral 72 (silica clay extract), amino acids, B-complex vitamins, and select botanical plant extracts, and is considered non-toxic and organic.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.49.56 AM4) With light and pump timers, the growing system is also able to operate through spring and summer vacations with minimal required maintenance.

5) The lighting source used by the team are two 200W compact fluorescent bulbs. They were purchased at a local hydroponic/gardening supply store.

The Great River Montessori School uses an Omega Garden Hydroponics System to grow Basil, Flowers, and Vegetables as part of a Micro-economics Class.


Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 8.50.03 AMThe students have successfully grown food. Furthermore, they have produced 1 pound of basil per week and sold this to a nearby store at a cost of $10 per half pound. They expect the harvest quantities to increase exponentially as the students become more experienced gardeners and plant more densely. Overall, the first season of growing with an Omega Garden has been a success.

For the time being, the experiment will continue and a new team of Omega Garden urban farming 8th graders will take control next fall. Check back for news!

The Great River Montessori School uses an Omega Garden Hydroponics System to grow Basil, Flowers, and Vegetables as part of a Micro-economics Class.

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