Students at Gilbert Elementary School are finding out how fun learning can be through an assortment of new farming, engineering and technology advantages the school offers.
"We focus on science, engineering art and math," said principal Matt Harris. "Our theme this year is 'Full STEAM Ahead,' meaning science, technology, engineering, art and math. We have an area of weakness in math. We are trying to boost our math scores. We had 97 percent of fifth-graders pass math last year. It takes a while to get there."
In the iGators iPad Lab, students use iPads to print in 3-D, design and control Lego robots and access "GameSalad" to create video games, learning about math and engineering in the process.
Inside an aquaponics classroom students are learning hands-on how to grow cabbage, lettuce and broccoli out of pipes that use water flowing from fish tanks to provide nutrients for the plants. Each hole has a half bottle holding rocks to help the plants grow.
Fisheries biologist Jim Caldwell is volunteering at the school to help with the program.
"We have deep-water culture, ebb and flow and nutrient-filled systems," said Harris. "Our outdoor pond will also have a living wall growing strawberries on a bridge above it. We have two composters. Outside we also have three raised garden beds that spell 'GES.' In the 2,700 square feet of gardens, we grow peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, squash, zucchini, lettuce and potatoes. We will give some of the produce to the Care Mission in LaFayette."
Harris said students also planted 12 trees creating an orchard of apple trees and pawpaw trees behind the school.
As people walk into Gilbert Elementary School, a General Store in the front holds pencils, erasers, book bags, paper and notebooks for students to purchase in the mornings.
Soon the store will also hold produce grown by the students.