A unique multi-disciplinary research classroom in the school parking lot at Yellow Medicine East High School was recently recognized by the Minnesota Rural Education Association in their 2017 Profiles of Excellence.

Students in the school’s trades and carpentry class built the state-of-the-art structure. Climate controlled through in-floor heating and hi carbon mats in the greenhouse beds, each of the three chambers are dedicated to the growth and study of plants and fish in different climate regions.

MREA honors the program’s ingenuity and ability to impact other schools with the 2017 Profile of Excellence Award. “This program in Yellow Medicine East is very extensive and encompassing,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said. “But many parts of the program could be repeated at a smaller level for any school wanting to do something similar.

This classroom serves as an extensive learning incubator for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Aquaponics tanks are used to raise fish, which provide nutrients for the plants grown hydroponically. The level of CO2, soil moisture, pH and nitrate levels can all be measured by the students. Students collect data by testing soil, analyze germination rates of plants grown in different soil temperatures and assess the growth rate of fish.

This opens up a wide variety of career ideas for students. Many of which might go unheard of without this type of learning opportunity.

Funding for the program was obtained through a grant from the Bush Foundation. Fagen, Inc. provided the money for data collection equipment and LED lighting.

Local gardeners will be the beneficiaries of the students’ research efforts. Plants that started as seedlings in these chambers will be sold to people in the community.

“The whole program is still relatively new. The possibilities connected to a one of a kind project like this are numerous. It is so exciting to see our schools stepping out and creating programs like this,” Nolan said.