World hunger was the theme for Brookwood School's fifth-grade STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) service project this year, so students crafted grow buckets with the goal of providing more access to fresh fruits and vegetables for a wider population.

The buckets are aimed at those who "live in cities without (an opportunity) to garden, (and/or) people living in poverty," said fifth-grader Ava Conger. "They can grow food and not go hungry."

This year, "I've learned that world hunger is a huge problem," said fifth-grader Brinley O'Ferrall. "The grow buckets are really, really simple and don't take that much effort."

"You can grow basically anything you want, and it's really easy," O'Ferrall added. "You pick what you want, then plant another, and it just keeps going."

It's "crazy how something so simple can help so much," said fifth-grader Ellis Robertson. "It's been really fun this year" to focus on addressing hunger concerns, and "we've made it work."

And it's "important because a lot of people don't have what we do," Conger said. "Part of our STEM work is humanitarian, and the (grow buckets) can make people happy."

"Fresh fruits and vegetables can be very expensive, but everyone can taste the good stuff" with the grow buckets, which can be placed on, say, a patio, balcony or roof and require little maintenance, said fifth-grader Bella Parsons. "It'll be nice for them to have fruits and vegetables so they can get the energy they need to live."

In addition to the grow buckets, fifth-graders created brochures and videos to demonstrate how the buckets work and offer healthy recipe ideas, said fifth-grader Valerie Rodriguez. "We can help so many people, and we don't want anyone suffering."

Brookwood was also engaged with aquaponics, and vegetables grown are often given to those in need, Parsons said. "It's really cool."

Nutrient rich aquaculture water, Brookwood's fish tank, was fed to a hydroponic-grown plant, a tomato plant at Brookwood, and nitrifying bacteria converts ammonia into nitrates, she said. "It's all problem solving," too, as, for example, "we had to tie strings to the plant because it was getting too tall," and they had to place cardboard in front of the fish tank because too much light was leading to algae growth.

Brookwood is a certified STEM school, so all grades, not just the fifth, concentrated on STEM projects on May 20. For example, fourth-graders were at Lakeshore Park to investigate turtles, macro invertebrates and micro invertebrates, while third-graders composted and wrote letters to members of next year's third-grade class briefing them on ongoing STEM projects.

Through Brookwood's STEM curriculum, "we've seen the world needs help, but we can help nature and everyone," Parsons said. "Not a lot of schools get to do this."

In first grade, Conger and her classmates focused on butterflies, releasing them into nature, and in fourth grade, "we studied turtles, their size, their habitats, what they eat and how they live," before tackling world hunger this year, she said. "I do feel like I learned a lot more with all the projects, and it's exciting because you feel like you can help in the real world."

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