At the aquaponics lab at Commonwealth Charter Academy in Harrisburg, seventh grader Hazel Tilder spends the day saying nice things to plants. She’s trying to see if her positive attitude can help them grow.
“Even though they can’t talk back, it’s a nice experience,” Tilder said.
She’s participating in the “Happy Plants” experiment. Middle schoolers from across the state can participate both in-person and virtually. They’re trying to determine if kind words, happy pictures and pleasant music can create a better environment for a plant to thrive.
What’s more; they’re also keeping an eye on plants in the “grumpy room,” where they hurl insults like “your flowers do not even match your personality.”
“So there is a mental health aspect that we did layer into the club,” said Samantha Johnson, the director of the aquaponics program. “A lot of people might think aquaponics and hydroponics, that’s more agriculture…but there is also a human element involved in that.”
While the experiment is scientific in nature, with data to be collected and measured, it’s also a reminder for kids about measuring their emotions and the impact of their attitude on others.
“Even if you’re having a horrible day, you can come into the happy plant room and find something to be grateful for.”
It’s working on Tilder. She says being in the happy plant room changes her mood.
“If you spread kind words, it makes you feel better as well,” she said. “I feel happy right now.”
The students report that so far, they are seeing more growth with the plants in the positive environment, although they say it is still early in the experiment process.