Back L-R: Gracie Agnew (Head of School), Judy Epperly (Garden Study Club), Kim Snyder (Martinsville Garden Club), Abdull Alfahd, Ann Vaughn Martin, Lielle Hoyer, Elle Hoyer, Marie Hoyer, Ken Vickers, Sherry Mochler (STEAM Coordinator), David Good Front L-R: Suri Holland, Harmon McClain, Lucy McClain, Grace Anderson, Will Anderson

This fall, students at Carlisle School have a new opportunity for hands-on educational experiences. Through the support of generous donors, the school has purchased a Tower Garden aeroponic growing system. Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.

The Tower Garden system is an essential part of Carlisle’s school-wide STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) initiative and allows students in grades PK-12th to study plant sciences, sustainable agriculture, and food production through interactive lessons. Throughout the year, students will grow academically by making predictions, collecting data, record keeping, and performing data analysis; all centered around the Tower Garden. Sherry Moschler, STEAM Coordinator for Carlisle School, said that the Tower Garden keeps young students more engaged in the learning process because aeroponic gardening is so efficient. “It grows produce 30% faster and also uses just 10% of the water that would be needed for traditional agriculture methods,” she stated.

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony to recognize donors, students helped kindergarten teacher Margaret Burkhart test the pH of the tower’s nutrient solution and then harvested the first crop of greens. In addition to using the Tower Garden as a learning tool, students are also able to enjoy the produce at the dining hall’s cafeteria salad bar. Cafeteria Director, Sarah Marshall and several teachers all observed that students who usually shy away from the salad bar were eager to try out the freshly harvested greens today.

Carlisle’s Tower Garden was made possible by donations from Ken Vickers and Ann Vaughn Martin, the Garden Study Club, and the Martinsville Garden Club. Vickers said, “Ann and I are delighted to be able to support the STEAM program at Carlisle School, which now includes the Tower Garden. We are also pleased to dedicate this endeavor in honor of our grandaughters Elle & Lielle Hoyer.”

Kim Snyder, First Vice President of the Martinsville Garden Club said, “It is our hope that the skills the children learn from caring for the Tower Garden will encourage them to grow gardens and appreciate the beauty of nature in the future.”

According to Judy Epperly, President of the Garden Study Club, “It was truly exciting to see Carlisle students harvesting greens from the Garden Tower this morning and see their delight in delivering greens they had nurtured to be used in their lunches today.”

The Martinsville Garden Club and the Garden Study Club are two of the 47 member clubs that make up the Garden Club of Virginia which celebrates its centennial year this year. The Garden Club of Virginia was actually Virginia’s first environmental conservation organization. Snyder said, “We feel that it is vital for our organizations to educate future generations to learn to conserve and care for our environment. The Tower Garden achieves this purpose.”

An informative video of the first harvest is available on the school website at carlisleschool.org/towergarden.

Carlisle School is an independent college preparatory school that provides a positive, safe environment for academic excellence and character development while embracing diversity and preparing our students to become leaders as citizens in a global society. Additional information can be found at www.CarlisleSchool.org.