MORRISTOWN, NJ - In 2009, a Carnegie Foundation commission of distinguished researchers and public and private leaders concluded that "the nation’s capacity to innovate for economic growth and the ability of American workers to thrive in the modern workforce depend on a broad foundation of math and science learning, as do our hopes for preserving a vibrant democracy and the promise of social mobility that lie at the heart of the American dream" This conclusion eventually led to the formation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
According to the NGSS, the new standards are rich in content and practice, and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally-benchmarked science education. Recently, middle school students at Unity Charter School took time to learn about microgreens, food chains, biomass and respiration. The instruction provided, allowed students to move well beyond memorization and allowed them to fully immerse themselves in understanding the role producers play in an ecosystem.
Through their full options science system, students were able to observe and investigate food properties while also becoming aware of various food components such as proteins, vitamins, fats and carbohydrates. They used indicators to test for acid, vitamin C, and sugar, while applying mathematics in the context of science. They accomplished this through growing microgreens, producers, in the lab and understanding the requirements for these healthy organisms. They also took time to apply their learning by making cross cutting concept connections across other domains of science.
“The integration of growing our own produce year round for our lunch program has been a dream of mine since I joined Unity's staff. As the middle school students began studying producers and their role in the food chain, it was a natural choice to start growing produce in class to use in our lunch program during the winter. Our microgreen lab is teaching the students about how producers increase biomass through photosynthesis and aerobic cellular respiration and how they transfer energy to consumers....namely us! This lab has the students tending to their crops each day and learning what it takes to sustain a healthy crop using organic means, said middle school science teacher, Jennifer Carcich.