Zebulon Magnet Middle School Teachers use WakeEd Partnership SummerSTEM for a Greenhouse PBL Foundation
By Esta Lampkin | Science Teacher, Zebulon Gifted and Talented Magnet Middle School
Last summer, fellow eighth grade science teacher Morgan Collins and I teamed up to enrich our classroom lessons through WakeEd Partnership’s SummerSTEM program.
Looking specifically at the unique needs of our Zebulon Magnet Middle School Community, we challenged students to design energy-efficient, renewable energy powered greenhouses. Inspired by the connections we made during SummerSTEM, our lesson plans included visits from City Planners and Duke Energy experts, wind turbine and solar labs, and student research to compare the impact and feasibility of renewable energy types for Zebulon, Wendell, and Knightdale.
Our vision was clear. Zebulon’s City Planner would help students examine existing and renewable energy sources for our town and nearby communities, addressing population growth, future development, energy requirements, and energy substations. Duke Energy experts would describe local and statewide energy operations, current renewable and non-renewable energy sources, cost-effectiveness, limitations, and future projects. Together, our community partners would provide students with additional knowledge and research that would help them bring their greenhouse models to life.
Overcoming COVID-19 Project Restrictions with Technology
When schools closed in March due to COVID-19, we embraced technology and our new virtual classroom to continue our greenhouse project. From home, our students compared the efficiency of renewable and non-renewable energy types, determined the best energy type(s) for their greenhouse models, identified possible solar energy farm sites using GPS coordinates, selected digital greenhouse plans from local business websites, and researched greenhouse hardware and equipment. Creative student artists constructed digital greenhouse models and a created a Tik Tok video to support their solar energy powered greenhouse! I am grateful to our rising 9th graders who persevered through this project.
Next Steps for School-Wide Impact
We’re excited to share that all that we have learned and planned this year will be incorporated into a future grant proposal. We are hoping to secure funding for a real greenhouse, powered by renewable solar or wind energy, so that all teachers at Zebulon Middle School will have the opportunity to develop greenhouse lessons and integrate interdisciplinary themes into their curriculum. Project ideas are already in progress for our school greenhouse. The possibilities are endless! Special Education students are eager for hands-on learning in the garden. Art students could design, modify, and paint planters. Family and Consumer Science students could grow herbs and prepare healthy recipes. Math students could determine each plant’s rate of growth. Students could code nanotechnology sensors to monitor temperature and humidity. Objects needed for the greenhouse could be created on a 3-D Printer. We could build habitats for monarch butterflies and school-based clubs could use the greenhouse for community service and school beautification projects.
As this project grows and more teachers become involved, there will be even more for real-world application of the 4Cs. This is clearly the beginning of another fruitful journey to benefit our ZMS students.