This year the students in first grade are involved in the hydroponics garden that the school maintains. The project ties into the ideas of the Laudato Si encyclical, teaching students that they can “care for their common home” through sustainable, low impact agricultural techniques. Students participate in the different stages of hydroponics gardening and then package and sell the products to parents, faculty and members of the Carmelitas community. Proceeds from the hydroponics sales are donated to the mission in Cuzco, thereby teaching students about the importance of being committed to society and helping the poorest people in their community.
A bit more about hydroponics. Hydroponics is a way of growing plants (usually fruits and vegetables for consumption) without the use of soil. All of the necessary nutrients that a plant normally receives from the soil are provided in a liquid nutrient solution that the plants are exposed to on a continuous basis. Depending on the size of the plant and type of produce being grown, plants can float in the nutrient solution, or they can be grown in a more supportive substrate (such as volcanic rocks) so that the roots receive the support they need for the plant to grow abundantly. Pesticides are usually avoided while low-impact and no-impact methods such as adhesive insect traps and natural tobacco leaves are used to control any insect problems.