Education One’s Innovation in the Classroom Grant takes root with sustainable education

May 08, 2024

The Hydroponic ZipGarden in Ted Schrader's classroom fosters hands-on learning, environmental awareness and sustainable agricultural processes for students in an urban environment.
Ted Schrader, a high school science teacher at The Portage School of Leaders in South Bend, Indiana, is the recipient of Education One at Trine University’s Innovation in the Classroom Grant.

This is the second year Education One has provided a grant specifically to encourage and support the innovation of teachers in the classroom. 

As an authorizing office comprised of educators, Education One is intentional about finding ways to directly support teachers in the classroom by providing unique educational opportunities for students. Understanding the time and resources committed by teachers to provide exceptional learning experiences for their students, Education One developed this grant as a way to highlight and support teacher creativity and innovation. 

Schrader’s submission for a Hydroponic ZipGarden fosters hands-on learning, environmental awareness and sustainable agricultural processes for students in an urban environment.  The innovative hydroponic system optimizes vertical space, ensuring efficient nutrient delivery for plant growth, and provides a controlled environment for hands-on learning in the high school classroom.

Schrader noted  how “this has been an excellent tool to teach sustainability and urban farming procedures. After talking about hydroponics, my environmental science students completed a lab using various materials to determine which substrate was most successful at growing lettuce and basal.”

Unique to an urban backdrop, the initiative introduces students to precise sustainable agriculture methodologies, emphasizing controlled nutrient solutions, pH regulation and the intricate interplay between root zone conditions and plant growth.

Schrader remarked how the project “heightened ecological consciousness, equipping students with the intricate knowledge of plant biology and technical proficiencies essential for navigating the future urban landscape, where mastery in hydroponic plant science is essential.”

Schrader detailed how direct engagement with hydroponic systems not only enhances students’ understanding of physiological plant processes, such as nutrient uptake, transpiration and photosynthesis, but also sharpens analytical thinking and troubleshooting skills related to optimizing these biological functions.

True to the school’s innovative, competency-based model, the Hydroponic ZipGarden will play a key role in future capstone projects.

“To finish up the semester, students are working on proposals to build an Urban Garden, and discuss pollution control in urban farming and environmental policy here in South Bend,” said Schrader.

To learn more about Education One and The Portage School of Leaders, visit their websites: and

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