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Science Department Chair Chris Ronzi Awarded Another Toshiba Grant

December 14, 2023
By Lake Catholic

Giving money directly to teachers brings immediate results in the classroom.

It’s the approach Toshiba America Foundation (TAF) takes with its grants, funding projects designed by individual classroom teachers. 

Lake Catholic Science Department Chair Chris Ronzi is happy to benefit from the approach.

Earlier this month, Ronzi was presented with a grant of $2,646, which she’ll put toward the rebirth of the school’s vivarium. It’s the second grant Ronzi has received from Toshiba.

“We are renovating the space and want to incorporate (two) hydroponic gardens to educate our environmental chemistry class as well as our biology students,” she said. 

The two hydroponic towers will serve multiple purposes and lessons for those environmental chemistry and biology classes. Immediately, students will be able to grow different types of produce – lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, spinach, and kale, just to name a few.

“We want to be able to help out the Meal Ministry program,” Ronzi said. “Having the ability to provide fresh vegetables and herbs to prepare those meals would be awesome.” Meal Ministry meets once a month to cook a large hot meal in the school’s Campus Ministry office that is delivered to local shelters.

“With two towers, we would be able to also help our entire school community by allowing students in need to take some of the produce home to help out their parents,” she said.

Students will not only continue to grow plants in soil in the vivarium’s grow beds but having the hydroponic towers will help educate them on a whole different method of growing. A longer-term lesson for students will be on sustainability and climate change.

They will be able to investigate and observe the needs of plants in a different modality than the more widely used soil model. They will see the value of growing hydroponically in areas where water and soil are limited.

“They will see the value of growing hydroponically in areas where water and soil are limited,” Ronzi said. “In a world where global warming is an issue that we face, optimal conditions for plant growth will decrease. Having experience with hydroponics will give the students a certain level of expertise that they will feel confident to carry on in their adulthood, fostering a love of plants and healthy eating.”

Students will learn responsibility in managing the hydroponic systems by incorporating STEM concepts into their classroom experience. This will allow them to see how hydroponics can reduce human impact on the earth, helping to conserve water and to be able to provide a much more nutritious and sustainable product. 

In biology classes specifically, the students learn about macromolecules and nutrition, and having the towers would lead to a culminating project where they would plan a meal to assemble in our school kitchen focusing on the nutrition knowledge that they gained in the unit.

Ronzi’s first grant from TAF, for $5,000, was back in 2014. With those funds, she purchased Anatomy in Clay supplies for both her anatomy class and human biology to use. 
“Over the years, there has been proof to substantiate that hands-on experience with using the manikins has been valuable with them retaining the knowledge about bones, muscles, and organs,” she said. “Students remember them better when they have built them.”

Toshiba America Foundation’s grants funds projects designed by individual classroom teachers. This “direct-to-teacher” approach brings immediate results. Teachers are able to change the way they teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects because the grant supports equipment for hands-on experiments and inquiry-based approaches to the curriculum. At ATF, they believe STEM is a lot more fun than just reading a textbook. TAF grants provide teachers with the tools they need to be more effective educators. The grants make the classroom a more exciting place for both teachers and students.

Tags: Academics

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