ST. MARYS — A new project being implemented in seventh-grade classrooms in Elk County Schools kicked off at St. Leo Catholic School in Ridgway Tuesday.

Elk County Conservation District Manager Kate Wehler said Resource Conservation Technician Victoria Challingsworth received a grant from the Elk County Community Foundation to conduct “hydroponics education” throughout the county.

“Hydroponics is basically growing plants without the use of soil,” Wehler said. “So, we are going to offer a system and educational programming to all of the seventh-grade classrooms.”

As to whether or not the teachers choose to participate is their choice, Wehler said.

“However many we have afterward, we will do an adult education day in the spring,” she said.

This project, Wehler said, is another way to educate students and adults on sustainable living and alternate ways of doing things.

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Hydroponic systems, a form of progressive agriculture, are great for people who might live in an area where soil is limited, such as a city or apartment setting, Wehler said.

“A lot of times, when we think of agriculture, we think of stereotypical farms where you need a lot of space and soil. The ever-increasing global population and changes in climate are forcing us to rethink agriculture,” Wehler said. “Additionally, the animals that live in the tank can be harvested for food.”

Aquaponics involves fish or other aquatic species to provide nutrients for the plants, she added.

“Hydroponics just uses water and artificial fertilizer to feed the plants,” Wehler said.

Participants who attend the spring workshop will also receive a hydroponics system, which includes the water tank — it could also be used as a fish tank — a filter system, growing substrate, two starter seed packets, water dechlorinate, etc., Wehler said.

“It’s basically everything a homeowner would need to get started with their own system,” she said.

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