Fifth Grade Humanitarians

Research Question: How can we use alternative, sustainable growing solutions to address hunger and malnutrition?

Our STEM work has evolved into a beautiful humanitarian project. Each year we immerse our students in simulations, documentaries, novels, articles, authentic problem solving, and hands on encounters concerning local and global hunger issues and possible solutions. Through the years, we have successfully built multiple hydroponic, aquaponic, and vertical gardening systems. These are alternative growing techniques used to address hunger issues caused by soil erosion, soil accessibility, government control and the lack of water access. Our goal for our fifth graders at Brookwood is to leave with a true understanding and concern for the real hunger struggles of their neighbors locally and globally and how they can help address those issues.

Connecting Hearts to Hunger:

It is essential for our students to be emotionally invested in our STEM research project in order to trigger interest and spur engagement. Near the beginning of each year, we involve our students in a hunger simulation. This simulation allows them to experience the uneven distribution of food in our world. The students are able to have an authentic understanding of how hunger looks and feels. It also drives home the fact that “hungry people” are not only in countries across seas, these people are our neighbors.

Use of Data:

  • Fish feeding data (amount of food/dates of feedings)
  • Testing bacteria levels to ensure stability of aquaponics systems (PH, Nitrite, Nitrate, and Ammonium)
  • Measuring the growth of the vegetables in the hydroponics systems

Our Partners: 

  • Temple Baptist Church – Rise Against Hunger food packing
  • Greater Works
  • DocUp
  • Ashley Broadrick, Matt Evans, and Chelsea Wilson (speakers sharing outreach experiences)

Civic Contributions to our Community:

  • Measured, weighed, packed, sealed, and labeled bean soup packets for donation to local food banks
  • Built vertical gardens and grow buckets (an alternative and versatile growing solution) to donate to local food banks
  • Created instructional pamphlets to accompany the grow buckets to inform recipients about how the bucket works and ideas for vegetation

Integration of Core Curriculum with Research:


  • Reflections on articles, documentaries, simulations, etc.
  • Narratives based on STEM experiences
  • Opinion pieces and informational writing based on knowledge gained from documentaries and articles
  • Informational posters to raise awareness on how hunger affects people

5th grade writing What the World Eats


  • Measuring fish growth
  • Test and measure PH levels, nitrite levels, nitrate levels, and ammonium levels of each aquaponics system
  • Measuring lettuce growth

Social Studies:

  • Making connections between causes of hunger and SS standards – war (Korean War, Vietnam War, World War I, World War II), government control (democracy, socialism, and communism), natural disasters (the Dust Bowl)


  • Making connections between causes of hunger and science standards – erosion and deconstructive forces (tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes)