Agriscience teacher Jane Beach loves to give her Braden River Middle School students opportunities for experiential learning. Students in the Bradenton school’s agriculture program, for example, learn how to grow different foods and raise chickens and rabbits as part of their in-class work.
“When students do science hands-on, they wake up to what is really going on,” said Beach. “It makes students understand on a deeper level what’s going on in a book or on the Internet.”
When Beach learned about FarmBot, a programmable robotic farming system through which students can learn about everything from plant science to coding, she knew it could provide a valuable learning experience that would engage and interest her students. After an unsuccessful attempt to get funding elsewhere, she got connected with Neal Communities, which recently granted Beach $1,995 to purchase a FarmBot for use with her students.
“This is going to allow us to expand our possibilities,” said Beach. “It shows that Neal Communities is invested in supporting education, and that they believe in the students and that they can learn and grow through projects like this that wouldn’t be able to happen without community support. We really appreciate the fact that Neal Communities funded our project and that we’ll be able to access technology like this that we wouldn’t normally be able to do.”
Beach and her students might have to wait a bit to get their FarmBot due to the global computer chip shortage; she’s hoping it arrives in the spring. In the meantime, there’s a lot that she and the students can do while they wait.
They’ll need to prepare the raised bed required for installing their FarmBot, and then research and plan what they want to grow. FarmBot plants in a grid system, so students will need to understand how big their different plants will be as they grow and whether their nutritional and watering needs are compatible. The technology that FarmBot uses is open-source, so they can also start learning how to use that technology to program their FarmBot to plant and water what they’re growing.
“We still have plenty of work to do before it arrives,” said Beach. “The kids are really excited. It’s going to be an awesome boost to our program.”
“We always appreciate the chance to support schools that educate young members of the communities in which we work,” said Pat Neal, founder and chairman of Neal Communities, Southwest Florida’s premier, private homebuilder. “The FarmBot will be a highly interactive and interesting way for students to learn about science and agriculture using a forward-thinking approach that helps prepare them for the future.”
For more information about Braden River Middle School, visit manateeschools.net/bradenrivermiddle.