The article was written by Sia Reddy, TMA Suite III student, and was originally published in Today Magazine, June 2020.


A group of fourth and fifth graders at Talcott Mountain Academy came together for a greenhouse enrichment led by Mindfulness Coach Ms. Theresa Velendzas and assisted by Academy teacher, Mr. Kieran Hyland. With a few brainstorming sessions, the group pinned down an enrichment topic, “Hydroponics!!” Growing plants without soil is called hydroponics. You read it right… without soil!

If this has raised your curiosity, read on to learn more about their journey.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants with no soil, but by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent, explains Ms. Velendzas. The Greenhouse Crew — consisting of Ms. Velendzas, Mr. Hyland, and students Nathaniel Lee, Caroline Slepinin, Alonzo Reader, Neyanie White and Nicolaas Koontz — utilized seeds as starter in existing hydroponic towers in the lunch room and in the greenhouse at the Academy. They planted an assortment of plants including cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and spinach.

Each member of the Greenhouse Crew had a daily regime and every member successfully followed through! As Ms. Velendzas explained, through this program students learned a lot about plant stages, how to safely transfer plants to bigger pots, maintaining optimal temperature for growth, watering requirements and even pruning for a bountiful harvest.

All of the students and teachers at the Academy came together for lunch to enjoy freshly harvested veggies and leaves grown by their own Greenhouse Crew. And the verdict by the Academy’s students is out… there is nothing yummier than organically grown and fresh vegetables! Students also got to hear directly from Greenhouse Crew members about their experiences and challenges through the process.

Fifth grader, Nathanial Lee, from Avon, was inspired by this enrichment class and decided to grow some more of his favorite fruits and vegetables. “I planted an orange tree which was successful, and I planted two avocado trees recently which have not grown entirely yet. I also grew Genovese basil and green arrow peas,” says Lee.

The Greenhouse Crew is continuing to grow plants and students can’t wait to taste this Crew’s spring harvest.