Growing knowledge

SRP Learning Grant turns Valley 3rd-graders into ‘budding scientists’

Juli Harpole’s third-grade students at Weinberg Elementary School in the Chandler Unified School District have been growing tomatoes, peas, peppers and herbs. Using propagation stations in their recently set up greenhouse, they plant seeds under controlled conditions and then monitor them during the day.

“They water them, they turn the lights and warmers on and off, they’re really just like mothers taking care of their little nursery,” Harpole said. “None of this would have been possible without our partnership with SRP.”

The partnership is a $5,000 grant, one of $125,000 in Learning Grants SRP gives to local schools each year.

Harpole said the grant has allowed her to buy materials for her classroom that would not otherwise have been possible. Most importantly, it has helped make learning interactive and fun for her students.

“Instead of buying seeds and using plastic cups to show a plant growing, I have been able to buy more age-appropriate reading materials with high-interest text and engaging photos, and pair that with this new greenhouse that has brought such excitement to learning about science,” she said.

The class now has a decomposition viewer, which lets them see how different items break down over time and which items are recyclable. Wireless weather stations allow the young students to compare the temperature inside and outside, check humidity levels and see how that impacts the plants they grow. And then there are the new microscopes.

“We now have 9- and 10-year-old budding scientists using luxury items like microscopes,” Harpole said with pride. “I could show them videos, but it’s so much more interesting for them to see how a plant stem works, with the vessels opening and closing, taking moisture up and down.

Harpole said this kind of hands-on learning is invaluable for the students in the long run, as it piques their interest in science, math and related fields.

“I have students asking questions about where their food comes from, wanting to plant gardens at home and just be more curious about the world around them,” she said, adding that she foresees the greenhouse project extending to other grade levels at Weinberg Elementary in the near future.

Harpole, who has also attended SRP’s Powering Our Future teacher workshops for five years, added that she’s grateful for the investment in education that companies like SRP make.

“In my entire teaching career, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with a company like SRP which devotes so much time and resources to teachers,” she said.

Featured photo courtesy of Weinberg Elementary School

Sonu Munshi

Sonu Munshi

Sonu is a communications strategist at SRP. She mainly handles social media and blogs at work, and two mostly adorable kids at home. She’s a writer at heart, and, naturally, always open to recommendations for the next great coffee shop in town.

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