BISMARCK, N.D., Aug. 28, 2023 – North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler has awarded a $10,000 innovation grant to the Hettinger public schools to finance an advanced botany instruction program, including a rain garden and hydroponics system for growing plants.
Brooke Schneider, who teaches science in grades 5-7 at Hettinger, said several agricultural stakeholders will be part of the project, including the Adams County soil conservation district and library, local farmers and agronomists, and North Dakota State University’s research extension center at Hettinger.
Botany is the scientific study of plants, including how they function, how they have evolved and are related to each other, and how people use them. The school district lacks a botany program despite its agricultural nature, and its ability to teach about botany and agriculture is limited, Schneider said.
“Agriculture is important to us, yet our school has minimal resources to educate our students about the quickly changing industry,” Schneider wrote in the grant application. “Additionally, agriculture has impacted our native ecosystem, which could negatively impact the industry. It is vital that our students design and analyze innovative practices to ensure a healthy environment and bountiful harvests.”
Many of the district’s students “show interest in simply taking over the family farm, without realizing the many agricultural opportunities available,” Schneider wrote. “We believe incorporating hands-on botanical experiences for our students will encourage lifelong agricultural innovation for our farming population, (and) will also teach sustainable practices to our nonfarming students.”
The project will include a greenhouse, hydroponics – a crop system that grows plants in water infused with nutrients – and a rain garden, which is a garden of native plants in a land depression that filters water runoff and allows the ground to absorb more water.
The Department of Public Instruction’s $10,000 Hettinger grant continues an initiative Baesler announced in December 2021. As part of a competitive application process, up to $10,000 in teacher innovation grants are awarded to one or more candidates every three months. The program was established using federal COVID-19 recovery funds.
The application window for the eighth round of grants opens Oct. 8, with the grant awards announced on Nov. 8, Baesler said.