1. Mike Barnett
  2. http://iuse.bc.edu
  3. Professor
  4. Urban Hydrofarmers: Seeding the Future
  5. http://iuse.bc.edu
  6. Boston College, STEM Garden Institute
  1. David Blustein
  2. Professor
  3. Urban Hydrofarmers: Seeding the Future
  4. http://iuse.bc.edu
  5. Boston College
  1. Laura Foote
  2. Lecturer
  3. Urban Hydrofarmers: Seeding the Future
  4. http://iuse.bc.edu
  5. Carroll School of Management
  1. Rajeev Rupani
  2. Senior Research Associate
  3. Urban Hydrofarmers: Seeding the Future
  4. http://iuse.bc.edu
  5. Boston College, Lynch School of Education
  1. Catherine Wong
  2. http://www.bc.edu/schools/lsoe/uoi.html
  3. Director
  4. Urban Hydrofarmers: Seeding the Future
  5. http://iuse.bc.edu
  6. Boston College, Urban Outreach Initiatives
Presenters’
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Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 14, 2017 | 05:36 p.m.

    Much of our work is focused on empowering youth to examine and explore social justice issues (i.e. food justice issues) and interfacing with the public.  We use social justice issues to frame and give meaning to the science. We are now implementing technological aspects to the work where youth are designing and building electronic monitoring systems for their hydroponic systems to teach them basic coding and robotics skills.  An interesting challenge that we are exploring is that issues such as food justice and air quality (https://www.fastcompany.com/3031162/citizen-air...) are relatively straightforward for youth to see the connections between social justice and science.  However, a challenge is connecting social justice to robotics, electronics, and coding.

     
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  • Icon for: Michael Haney

    Michael Haney

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 09:22 a.m.

    There is a leap between the introductory section on social justice with data on the distribution of grocery stores and hydroponic gardening with student markets.  Assuming the main focus of the project is on the latter, the students clearly come away with a new awareness about varieties of foods and how they are grown.  Is the hope that they will become more active in civic issues concerning food sources, that they will grow some of their own food, or that they will be motivated and learn science through the practical example of food production?

     
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    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 03:36 p.m.

    Yes, on the motivation to learn science.  The civic issue activism is the driving factor supporting interest generation toward science.  The GIS maps were generated to examine if there was an issue around lack of access to healthy food and where the issue is.  What is interesting is that in the latest work the youth are moving toward more of a empowerment focused strategies where they proposed to us to start training middle school youth and establish larger scale urban farms where they youth are the ones that establishment a larger market that is specifically focused around selling food that is of interest to the people from that school and to teach residents about the science of how the food is grown through the creation of a urban cookbook.  

     
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  • Icon for: Vivian Guilfoy

    Vivian Guilfoy

    Senior Advisor
    May 15, 2017 | 11:27 a.m.

    Using hydroponic gardening as the centerpiece for learning science as well as robotics, electronics and coding makes a lot of sense.  Will be interested in seeing how you make those connections real and perhaps enhance the food production as well.  Are all the participating sites experiencing similar learning challenges?  Do you work collaboratively on common issues?  And, being local, I'll have to find out where and when you hold the farmers market :)  

     
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  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 03:46 p.m.

    The connections have been a challenge, particularly how learning coding/robotics is related social/environmental justice.  In classrooms teachers have a lot of options around how they implement the program but all generally focus on using the growing of plants as the hook to get their students interesting in understanding the underlying science.  The youth program goes from 7th grade through 12th grade with three strands, early on the youth are exploring the basic of hydroponics, then onto solar energy ( you can see that work here:  https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/hydroponicsed.jsp) and then the youth move into the electronics coding.  The premise of the coding is to get to youth to automate the systems so they don't have to check on them all the time, but rather can send the information to their phone if the water is low.  This summer we are implementing a stronger social entrepreneurship component where youth will be designing desktop units and the corresponding electronic monitoring systems and they have to pitch their design to a group of venture capitalists on why they should invest in their idea.  The reason for this is that the students have decided to give all the greenhouse produce to a local boys and girls club and design systems that can help anyone to grow their own produce in their own apartment. 

     
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    Jomo Mutegi

    Researcher
    May 17, 2017 | 12:24 p.m.

    Mike, first I want to thank you for this project. It is a very compelling and valuable way to approach science instruction. You mentioned that one challenge is showing how learning coding is related to social justice. However, it seems very clear to me. You have also addressed this issue when you indicated that by creating monitors students would be able to allow the technology to monitor their hydroponic systems, which frees them to engage in other work. So who is that has difficulty seeing this connection? I'd there some group of people that you have to "sell" on the idea of coding as it relates to this project?

     
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  • Icon for: Ami Radunskaya

    Ami Radunskaya

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2017 | 11:31 a.m.

    As mathematics teachers, we are often asked "When will I ever use this?" Connecting mathematics to social justice problems (and there are many such connections!) at all stages of math education will go a long way towards engaging students in math -- and then science.  There is a growing body of literature on how to make and communicate these connections, but we could do more.  An ideas on how to create and disseminate more resources for math teachers are welcome!

     
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    Valerie Butler
  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 03:49 p.m.

    We have a wonderful Ph.D. candidate and math educator working on lessons around statistics and rate problems.  In particular with the hydroponic systems being double tiered you can run an experiment and do a t-test to evaluate the impact on plant production and with the solar energy a major problem is if you are running your pump and you are charging the battery with solar panels, how long will the battery last.  Nice related rate problem.  We are also starting to develop a few finance focused lessons around basic marketing and cost benefit analysis:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/huzjjq4rh4lfsp8/AADi... (You can see the start of the business curriculum at the dropbox folder where all the curriculum is stored).

     
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  • Icon for: Thomas Kalil

    Thomas Kalil

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 08:37 p.m.

    Very inspiring!  How did the students make the transition from using GIS to analyze "food deserts" to using hydroponics to produce fresh food?

     
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    Rajeev Rupani
  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 08:54 p.m.

    Great question!  We have been working with youth for about 10 years and we were having students exploring urban ecological problems such as the ecological services provided by trees, urban noise impact on humans and wildlife.  These projects where heavily GIS focused and that lead to urban planning on why some areas had more green space than others.  The exploration of green space led to the impact of green space on health and how lower-income areas tended to have less green space and trees.  Then the youth transitioned into taking over vacant lots and we had partnered with the wonderful Placeways LLC as they had a tool that allowed youth to redesign a neighborhood.  We had the opportunity to work with two community development corporations that were trying to develop some land and the first thing that they wanted the youth to do was to explore what the neighborhood wanted and what could go in the vacant lots.  The top choices were grocery stores and playgrounds and places to shop.  This lead to a group doing an analysis of where all the supermarkets were as they were complaining that they only thing had in their neighborhood was liquor stores and fast food or convenience stores and when the youth looked at the map they wanted to figure out why there were no supermarkets near them and how they could fix that.  This led to (1) lets get a supermarket to move in (very difficult), and (2) what can we do to try to fix this - we began to look into and we met a venture capitalist who gave us the first hydroponic equipment to play with.   We were dubious, but we piloted the idea with a group of seniors about 6 years ago and we couldn't get them to leave the lab... so figured we were onto something... and then we discussed the idea with the youth and we came up with the idea of scaling up the hydroponics work and eventually we got the greenhouse on campus renovated and since then we have been improving (hopefully) the hydroponic work.  The big lesson that we learned through this process is (1) always listen to the youth and our job is to try to build the partnerships and structures to enable the youth to follow their ideas.  I admit, this is often a lot of work and tiring but well worth it.

     
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    Rajeev Rupani
  • Icon for: Barbara Rogoff

    Barbara Rogoff

    Researcher
    May 15, 2017 | 09:25 p.m.

    This project is so important and impressive!  I assume that the students are working in teams on these projects?  Do the teams include adults/teachers as members of the team (not directors, but involved participants)?  I'm interested in the collaboration aspect, which I think may be an important motivational aspect of the project, yes?  In our research, we see very sophisticated thinking together that can include adults as well as peers (among Mexican-heritage and Indigenous American groups; our video on this is #1034).

     
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    Rajeev Rupani
  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 09:54 a.m.

    Absolutely agreed on collaboration.  one of our great Ph.D. students Chris Asante is studying the collaboration aspect of the work from both the teachers and youth side.  He will probably be ready to present that work (I've steered him to watch you video as well).   The challenge is also setting up both collaboration with a bit of competition.  We usually have teams of students who are working together to design a system and argue why someone should invest their system over another teams while at the same learning from the other teams.  Almost like an small-business incubator environment.  

     
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    Rajeev Rupani
  • Icon for: Traci Young

    Traci Young

    Graduate Student
    May 16, 2017 | 04:19 p.m.

    This is such a fantastic project and so incredibly impressive. The connections that are being made between social justice issues and STEM are really important. I am curious about the peer-mentoring approach you mentioned in the text. What kinds of things are happening in that aspect of your project?

     
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    Rajeev Rupani
  • Icon for: David Jackson

    David Jackson

    Graduate Student
    May 17, 2017 | 08:58 a.m.

    Hi Traci,

    I'm helping with the mentoring aspect of the project & I'm happy to answer your questions. We're using a hybrid (in-person + online), near-peer mentoring model. The near-peer part refers to the narrow age gap between mentors roughly in their lower-20's and mentees who are currently high school juniors (will be seniors in the fall). The hybrid model in our case means that we start with in-person meetings & have those every two weeks or so during the semester. We supplement the in-person meetings with "virtual"/e-mentoring, primarily through text messaging or emails. For the virtual mentoring prompts we have partnered with MentorNet.

    At least all of that is the project design... is terms of what is "happening", we're having some difficulties with the tech aspect of things (mentors/mentees not receiving prompts, e.g.) and adjusting to inconsistent attendance. For the summer and fall we're looking at additional paths for tech (social networks, e.g.), a more customizable sequence of prompts (i.e. the first and last prompts should be set, but in-between can be chosen by mentors/mentees), and different ways of pairing dyads (we did a first-come first-serve model to avoid interpersonal struggles, but those might be less detrimental than having dyads that aren't a good fit).

    We have a bunch of interview data that one of my grad student colleagues and I will be analyzing this summer. In the mean time we'd love to hear what you think about our design and implementation, and also if you know any related projects of interest!

    Kind regards,
    Dave

     
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    Valerie Butler
    Rajeev Rupani
  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 02:04 p.m.

    Yes, one thing to add is that we have also found that the initial mentoring experience if just on-line can be rather overwhelming for some youth.  Hence the shift to a hybrid model.

     
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  • Icon for: Chris Dede

    Chris Dede

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2017 | 11:12 a.m.

    Defining "science education" as including social justice and citizens' activism is very important - glad you are developing this.

     
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    Rachel Shefner
  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 02:04 p.m.

    Thanks Chris.  My wonderful colleague Catherine Wong is the leader (along with some fantastic students).  The graduate students with Catherine led a paper about the Social justice/STEM/activist framework which fleshes out the structure of the program much better.  http://trace.tennessee.edu/catalyst/vol7/iss1/4/

     
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  • Icon for: Anna Suarez

    Anna Suarez

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 01:29 p.m.

    Hi Mike,

    I love your project and video! Kudos for the feature in the news segment.  The entire project provides access to students on so many levels.  I was simultaneously happy to see that the junior/senior level mentioned college essay and saddened that he had never heard about the college application process until your project. Could you please provide a bit more information about the college access/introduction project component? 

    I not sure if you're familiar with Roadtrip Nation (http://roadtripnation.com/about). Their tools connect students to the vast careers available, including in STEM.  In the past I've worked with their founders and would be happy to connect you.

    You may also want to reach out to Ann Jorse (PI) Tomatosphere project for possible collaboration (see below).  You may also want to explore additional funding through CASIS.

    First the Seed Foundation
    Ann Jorss
    Investigation: Tomatosphere

    Tomatosphere™ is an educational program started in 1999 in which students investigate how the space environment affects tomato plant growth. Each participating class is sent two packages of tomato seeds—one package of seeds that has been sent into space and one package of control seeds that have not been in space. Students and teachers compare the germination rates of the two groups of seeds, not knowing which seeds went to space and which are the control seeds. This project will provide transportation of 1.2 million seeds to and from the ISS (the seeds will remain in orbit between 10 and 60 days). The project will also include monitoring and data tracking (temperature, humidity, and pressure) for both the seeds sent to the ISS and the control seeds. The Tomatosphere™ program has grown from 2,700 classes in 2001 to more than 19,000 classes in 2015. In its 15- year existence, the program has reached approximately 3.3 million students.

    Each award is contingent upon the completion of an agreement between the recipient and CASIS on mutually acceptable terms and conditions.

    For additional information about CASIS opportunities, including instructions on submitting a proposal, please visit: www.iss-casis.org/solicitations. To learn more about the ISS, including past research and available hardware and facilities, please visit: www.spacestationresearch.com.

     
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  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 02:02 p.m.

    Wonderful.  I'll let my wonderful college Catherine Wong who leads the college access work on our team, but at its core the youth are expected to get their college admission essays done, what to ask about in terms of financial aid, what it is like to be a college (all the youth are assigned a Boston College undergraduate as their mentor).  Catherine has done a wonderful job in develop a suite of materials to help bridge the difference between the undergraduates at BC and the Boston Public youth as they often have very different life experiences, cultural backgrounds, etc...  

     
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  • Icon for: Anna Suarez

    Anna Suarez

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2017 | 02:12 p.m.

    Extremely impressive project!  Thanks for sharing and for the wonderful work you and your colleagues are doing.  

     
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  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 08:53 p.m.

    Thanks Anna, it is really the youth that have been driving the project.  Just our privilege to get to work with them.

     
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  • Icon for: Rachel Talbert

    Rachel Talbert

    Graduate Student
    May 17, 2017 | 02:20 p.m.

    This is a really great project. With regards to the civic/social justice aspect of coding. Would encourage you to check out the civic media lab at MIT https://civic.mit.edu/-they are definitely getting deep into this work and coding for civics. Also would encourage you to look at participatory budgeting websites in cities around the world. There is a great example in in NYC https://www.participatorybudgeting.org/how-to-s... the platform uses technology and is a good example of civic coding and student participation in social justice. Keep growing this kind of work. 

     
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  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 07:04 p.m.

    Thanks!  Yes, the civic lab does some wonderful work and it is great to see a lot of those participatory budgeting initiatives sprouting up.  Boston has a similar initiative.  On a much smaller scale we have been engaging the youth in our NSF grant writing processes.  They are engaged with us on the brainstorming, the conceptualization of what would be of interest to them, and so on.  

     
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  • Icon for: Valerie Butler

    Valerie Butler

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 18, 2017 | 11:27 a.m.

     Hi Mike,

    This is a wonderful project! There is similar work being done in Baltimore where I live at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future though I don't believe their offerings are as expansive as yours. Kudos to you for really engaging the youth in improving their communities, and creating opportunities for them.

    I am interested in ways to embed social justice connections in science education and science practices. I wrote a paper on the topic (http://thenode.biologists.com/kicking-notch-bec...) but had a hard time finding real-world examples to include as resources. If anyone out there has any activities or examples to share I'd love to explore them.

     
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  • Icon for: Christine Cunningham

    Christine Cunningham

    Founder & Director, Engineering is Elementary
    May 19, 2017 | 04:47 p.m.

    The testimonial from your student leader is powerful, "I came here…and my voice actually matters." Your project's connections between social justice and STEM are also impressive. Do you have plans to train more teachers or expand to additional communities?

     
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  • Icon for: Mike Barnett

    Mike Barnett

    Presenter
    May 19, 2017 | 08:30 p.m.

    Wonderful to hear from Christine and thanks for checking out the video.  The youth are just fantastic.  Our privilege to get to work with them.  

    The other side of the project is work with teachers.  We have about 120 teachers do the current version of the hydroponics curriculum and another 35 will be joining us this summer from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  A wonderful article that just came out was co-written by two of our great teachers:  

    http://csl.nsta.org/2017/05/seeding-the-future/

    We are also hopefully going to be launching our larger scale food justice ambassador program where high school in three cities will be training middle school youth in managing larger scale urban farms.  We will establish 8 new largeish scale (enough for middle school youth to harvest 1000 plants/week) in Boston (8 of them), in Waltham (3 of them), and in Springfield (6 of them).  We will have a total of 60 food justice ambassadors (high school youth) working with around 450 - 500 middle school across those cities.  Then in March we will have a food justice strand at the annual Massachusetts Agriculture conference where the youth present and share their work, and challenges.  

     
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  • Icon for: Dilafruz Williams

    Dilafruz Williams

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 22, 2017 | 06:50 p.m.

    It is so wonderful to see a project that also deals with growing food along with addressing social justice issues. Clearly there is pride in kids as they harvest and take the produce to the market. I am excited to learn more about how the students process social justice issues. Do you have research integrated with this project? I wonder what questions you are investigating.

    We, too, have a gardening project funded by NSF (and video here) called Science in the Learning Gardens. Ours is at the middle school level with direct focus on NGSS curriculum design using gardens as the milieu for learning. It is exciting to see student enthusiasm in both our projects.

     

     
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