William Hart Students Earn Green Thumbs While Learning Math, Science


William Hart Elementary teacher Lance Grant looks over some of the school’s home grown produce with his students.

What started as a small garden project at William Hart Elementary has grown into an innovative ecosystem that’s in the hands of the students at this Jefferson Parish Public School. William Hart physical education teacher Lance Grant led the charge to create an aquaponics system on the school’s campus. From math and science to an appreciation of the laws of nature, this creation has led to the truest form of hands-on learning.

“The system is a learning gold mine,” said Grant. “We are teaching kids about the world around them and the technologies that are being used by using a hands on system.”

Aquaponics does not use soil to grow its plants. Instead, it uses an aquarium of fish. William Hart’s system has an aquarium with 200 gold fish that’s connected to four grow beds. The fish waste feeds the plants. In return, the plants’ roots (and the rocks the plants are planted in) provides clean water that’s then filtered back into the aquarium for the fish. The system also uses 90% less water than if the plants were grown in soil.

Students do much of the work required to keep the system running smoothly, from me asuring plant levels and water temperature to learning how the various parts of the system work together as a whole. They even help dig for worms.

“Our students have taken the opportunity to be responsible for the system everyday because of his support,” said William Hart Elementary principal Janeen C. Weston, whom Grant credits with much of the fundraising that led to the system. “He has helped them learn about the plants, environment, and the systems to support them. It adds beauty to our campus and it shows our students are learning outside of the classroom.”

Grant said the entire school has adopted the system as their own. Staff members even keep watch of it during holidays and those with green thumbs offer their expertise wherever needed.

“It is an awesome thing when you have a teacher who can share not only a personal hobby, but make it relevant in our curriculum scope of science and social studies and encourage learning,” said Weston. “Coach Grant takes his responsibilities as a teacher and coach very seriously. He sees a future for our students.”