Exploring Passive-Solar Energy Projects in Schools

Feb 8, 2019

By Hartley Prosser

Have you ever wondered how we could produce food all year-round? While being sustainable? Well, our Northern climate in beautiful New Brunswick does not have a lot of year-round sustainable opportunities for growing food. However, a new type of approach may change things and a few schools around the province are leading the change. The new approach to growing vegetables and other foods all year-round is called Passive Solar Greenhouse Design. Cozy vegetation stations (a.k.a. Passive Solar Greenhouses) are popping up throughout the province and, as mentioned, in schools!

These greenhouses are staying warm by utilizing the soil underneath and the shining sun above the structure. In this approach, designers look to nature’s pre-existing renewable resources to keep the greenhouse structure at a comfortable temperature and humidity at optimal levels for plant growth. Specifically, by realizing the soil’s capacity to store heat, the greenhouse stores solar energy below its structure which is then saved for keeping the plants safe and warm when the weather outside is cold. The greenhouse plants aren’t alone by the way, they are accompanied by their fish friends. These two organisms get along quite nicely – the plants utilize the nutrient-dense fish waste while the fish enjoy clean water and a balanced environment. This fish/plant relationship is known as aquaponics. Aquaponics mimics the way in which many plants obtain nutrients in nature. Therefore, this greenhouse, paired with its passive-solar design, is a true example of biomimicry, the act of mimicking nature. Mimicking nature can be easy and promising and we invite all to think about how nature supports us and our day-to-day needs!

So far in my work, I have come across two schools who have embraced the passive solar technique and are building working models with their students. The opportunities for learning hands-on with this approach are unlimited including fields such as architecture, construction, agriculture, environmental science, amongst others. The biggest challenge that I have come across when promoting this technology in schools would be finding a champion within a school who will help push a project like this forward. With a champion teacher, the possibilities are endless!

About the Author:

Hartley has been with The Gaia Project since October 2018. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences and expertise in self-heating passive solar greenhouses, aquaponic growing systems and green living-roof systems.

Click here to learn more about Hartley.

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