Source: BOSTON COLLEGE submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2015
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2018
Grant Year
Project Director
Barnett, G. M.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Teacher Education
Non Technical Summary
Purpose Our proposed work directly address the SPECA program need area of Curriculum Development, Instructional Delivery Systems and Expanding Student Career Opportunities. We are proposing an educational program to bring a farming experience to within the school by creating an interdisciplinary hydroponic science curriculum for urban schools. Audience We are focusing our efforts in areas of the northeast that have high minority populations and lower income areas in the towns and cities in and around Lawrence, MA, Boston, MA, and Providence, Rhode Island. We have chosen these three areas because they have high percentages of recent immigrants and minority students. Products We will develop curriculum materials that are correlated to the Next Generation Science Standards that teachers can utilize their own classrooms. We will also generate guidelines that can be used by other projects to design their own professional development programs. We will develop an on-line presence where teachers can share best practices and youth can view short video career discernment vignettes of people in the food and agriculture field. Outcome/Impact In total we will impact around 9000 - 10,000 urban youth and 90 teachers over the three years of this grant. We have designed a rigorous internal research agenda and external evaluation to determine the efficacy of our program. We will be able to make strong claims regarding how our program has improved youth interest in science, STEM and agriculture related careers, as well as their understanding of the scientific inquiry process.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Knowledge Area
806 - Youth Development;

Subject Of Investigation
2299 - Miscellaneous and new crops, general/other;

Field Of Science
3020 - Education;
Goals / Objectives
Create a hydroponics program for high-school science classrooms that engages urban, minority students in conducting scientific research investigations in food production.Implement a professional development program to support teachers in conducting scientific and mathematical inquiry around the growth of food with their students.Scale our program where each site location will train up to 10 new teachers per year. Therefore, at the end of three years we will have trained70-90 teachers across the northeast.Engage teachers as peer mentors where teachers with more experience with hydroponics will help support new teachers as they join the program.Train high-school teachers on the scientific and technological aspects of hydroponics through an intensive one-week summer institute and a set of five follow-up professional development workshops during the year for a total of 45 direct contact hours with teachers.Develop a set of hydroponic-based curriculum materials that support teachers in how to conduct rigorous scientific research, support learning about science careers, the chemistry, physics, physiology of plant growth, and economics of indoor hydroponic crop production.Develop a set of mini-vignettes and videos of individuals across the food industry and their career discernment process and how learning/knowing science helped them to succeed. We will choose a wide range of individuals including chefs, greenhouse managers, urban farmers, etc... as students tend to have traditional or stereotypical views of agricultural careers (Fraze, Rutherford, Wingenbach, & Wolfskill, 2011).Conduct rigorous research and evaluation of both the teacher training and the impact on student interest in science, and their intentions to pursue a STEM and/or agricultural-based career. To that end, our research and evaluation designs will enable us to conduct rigorous pre-post assessments of program participation on student interest, knowledge, and intentions to pursue STEM and agricultural-related careers. In addition, our research and evaluation designs will allow us to measure the impact of teacher implementation on these constructs by examining what aspects of the curriculum teachers utilize in their classrooms. In this way, our research and evaluation goes beyond pre-post measures but our findings will be able to inform other program designers regarding what aspects of the program are most critical in terms of maximizing positive impact on youth outcomes (see research and evaluation sections for the details).
Project Methods
Given the interdisciplinary nature of our proposed work, we have brought together a diverse set of experts from a range of organizations, including the Lynch School of Education at Boston College (Dr. Barnett-Science Educator), Dr. Jameson Chace a biology professor at Salve Regina University, and Ms. Lindsey Cotter-Hayes, who directs the educational agriculture program at Groundworks-Lawrence. We have also recruited numerous businesses to help support the proposed work (see letters - matching funds) and have garnered support and interest from many schools (see letters) in the Boston Public School system, surrounding districts, and Boston's assistant superintendent's office for English Language Learners. Dr. Barnett will be the overall lead for the project and will work closely with graduate students from Boston College to support the roll-out and implementation of the materials. The graduate students will help to coordinate the recruitment of teachers, co-lead the curriculum development, and oversee the making of the hydroponic kits for teachers. In addition, the graduate students will ensure that the research instruments are administered and will lead the analysis of the data under the supervision of Dr. Barnett. Dr. David Blustein will be leading the career-development aspects of the project and will supervise a graduate student as they lead the development of the video vignettes and the Career Case studies that will be in the curriculum. Dr. Chace is the team's biology expert and will lead the Rhode Island (and southern Massachusetts) implementation and will ensure that all materials are scientifically accurate and that the scientifically methodologies utilized are appropriate. Ms. Cotter-Hayes will lead the northern Massachusetts implementation of the project. Ms. Cotter-Hayes also has extensive experience in agriculture and works closely with a number of urban farms and will ensure that our curriculum materials are providing the skills and knowledge that local area farms need. Dr. Silva Mangiante has significant experience in working with minority youth and is a science and math educator. Dr. Silva Mangiante will work with Dr. Barnett and Dr. Chace on the curriculum materials and professional development trainings. To manage our work, we will form teams with overlapping project staff. This structure will allow for an open flow of information and will ensure that work on one team is complementary and supportive of work on another team. We will form a leadership team that will consist of the project PIs, external evaluator, and two lead teachers (who will be co-teach the summer programs). The leadership team will formally meet six times per year with the goals of examining the progress of the work, examining the evidence team's data and the internal formative evaluative research, and evaluating the future direction of the project. Specifically, Dr. Barnett and Dr. Chace will lead the curriculum development team. As the leader of the development team, Dr. Barnett in collaboration with Dr. Chace and Dr. Mangiante will oversee the pedagogical design and teacher supports that will be embedded into the curriculum and the design and implementation of the supportive technology. All project staff will work closely with our external evaluator and Dr. Barnett to ensure that the research and evaluation instruments have sufficient content validity and that the data are collected and analyzed. Our external evaluator, Dr. Jacqueline DeLisi from EDC, will also work with our research team to ensure that our internal research aspects of the project are not over-taxing the students or teachers.

Progress 09/01/15 to 08/31/16

Target Audience:Our primary population has been teachers of under-represented populations in science. This summer we trained a total of 32 teachers from cities across the northeast including Lawrence, Boston, and Sprinfield Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. Changes/Problems:We are currently on target and a bit ahead of where we hoped to be at this time in the project. This summer we will train 35 teachers (27 from Massachusetts and Connecticut and 8 from Rhode Island). We will continue to expand our work to recruit additional teachers. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?We have implemented two teacher workshops and a summer teacher institute. In total we have opportunities for 30 teachers to participate in our training. We also have 2 Ph.D. students working on the design and implementation of our program. (one was funded in part by NIFA and the other was provided by the university as a part of the matching requirement) We have 2 masters level students (both to be future science teachers) who are working on the curriculum materials. These students worked ont he project but were not funded by the grant. We have 2 Ph.D. counseling pscyhology students who are leading the efforts on the longitudinal research efforts around resilience and STEM career development. We have 4 undergraduates working on the curriculum development and the building of hydroponic systems for teachers. The undergraduates are also participating in designing and building the solar systems that we are training the high school youth in learning how to put together. These students were funded by the university. We have implemented one teacher workshops and a summer teacher institute. In total we have opportunities for 25 teachers participate and just completed our summer institute with 27 teachers attending representing a very diverse area of expertise. Answer Options Response Percent Response Count Middle School Science 50.0% 10 Biology 35.0% 7 Chemistry 20.0% 4 Physics 10.0% 2 Environmental Science 20.0% 4 Other (please specify) 14 How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Yes, we have presented to the Massachusetts Environmental Educationa Association and this coming year we will present to the Massachusetts STEM Summitt and will host a booth at the STEM Summitt where the curriculum materials will be availalble along with demos. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?We have a set of initiatives that we hope to undertake over the coming year which are: Continue to review and revise the curriculum material Make the curriculum materials freely available on our website We are currently distributing the materials to those teachers that have attended our workshops and institutes Continue to recruit new teachers and expand to the Springfield Public Schools We will continue to develop our STEM career integration components into the curriculum

What was accomplished under these goals? First order challenges: In working with our early teachers we specifically targeted teachers who had been working with our group for a few years or with teachers who had experience with agriculture in classroom settings. We started our work with 10 such teachers and with a daylong Saturday workshop to introduce the project work to them and the system design. We walked the teachers through the design of the NFT system (tray based system), how to put it together and how to use the schematics diagrams. We focused most of that first workshop on the idea of engaging students in doing research and how to support students in asking and evaluating research questions and how to collect and analyze data. However, we learned that many of the teachers who took a system either didn't set up their systems or set up their systems much, much later in the academic year. The reason for this was due to the "imposing task" of putting the system together and how to make sure that their system worked. To address this 1st order challenge we shifted our workshops and the summer institute to more of a maker institute. To that end, the teachers put togehter the systems they were taking and took them apart to fit them in their cars. We also created a more detailed how to manual, a frequently asked questions document on how to put togehter the systems. Further, we also developed a new design for our hydroponic systems that requires very little in terms of parts and maintaince other than cleaning. In addition, we redesigned our systems so they could be put on wheels and rolled around as needed (as we learned that some teachers wasn't sure where they would be teaching and didn't want to have to take apart their system and put it together again). 2. Second order challenges revolved around troubleshooting the systems. For example, if a system part became clogged or starting to leak, even a little, it was unclear as to how to proceed and was easier for the teachers to just turn off the systems and wait for the next workshop. This situation existed depsite our regular digital correspondence with teachers (as they simply didn't tell us that the systems were off-line). To address this challenge we included an intensive session on troubleshooting and maintaining and caring for the hydroponic equipment. We also simplified both designs where there are now very little opportunity for problems to emerge (but we did specifically have teachers go through how to solve basic common problems). This 2nd order challenge also is why we developed our two tier float system. The only item that can break on the system is the stryofoam that the plants float in. In essence, the float system is a deep water culture system that relies on air stones to keep the water oxygenated which means there is nearly no opportunity for students to accidently leave a pump running or have a pump point in the wrong direction for a water leak (see 3. Third order challenges revolved around the pedagogical and logistcs of integrated hydroponics into the classroom. What we have found most interesting in this regard is that the previous challenges which were mostly procedural, technical, and technological impededed the teachers from the important challenges around pedagogy. However, once the teachers got began to concerns themselves with pedaogical issues the major question was how to integrate into a chemistry, biology, or environmental science program. Hence the ideas of reserach questions and the connections to larger issues such as where students' food come from, food justice, and the ecological and economic costs of growing food.


  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Awaiting Publication Year Published: 2016 Citation: Patchen, A., Jose, D., Scheilmann, A, Rupani, R, & Barnett, M (2016). Integrating Hydroponics in Science Classrooms. Connected Learning, NSTA Press.