Vertical Pop Bottle Gardens

Area(s) of Focus: technology, well being
Division(s): Intermediate
Level(s): Grade 7, Grade 8

Use recycled materials to build vertical window garden. Ignite students’ inquiry and critical thinking skills with this design challenge. Engage them in hands-on learning. Broaden understanding of sustainable water and resource management.

In November of 2016, we created a project that connected the learning of students and teachers in four different classrooms within the Rainbow District School Board where each class was employed with the creation of a vertical garden system using recycled materials. The goals of this project were to build garden systems in order to promote the sustainable use of water, to increase awareness of the health benefits of eating fresh produce, and to encourage students to innovate, collaborate and use their creative and critical thinking skills. Having successfully completed the project, we extended the learning experience to other teachers in the RDSB, as well as teachers across Ontario.

Team Members

  • Andrea MacInnes

    Rainbow District School Board

  • Catherine Valiaho

    Rainbow District School Board

  • Heather Evans

    Rainbow District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Honed our skills as innovators and collaborators while challenging and expanding our current skill set
  • Spread our values in environmental stewardship
  • Exposed our peers to issues surrounding water availability and to encourage them to consider how vertical gardening may become more important in a future with rapid population increase and less arable land available

Activities and Resources

  • Present our project process and results to a small group of our peers
  • Meet several times with interested teachers to guide them through the different stages of the project
  • Kept in regular contact with teachers pursuing vertical gardens in their own classrooms
  • Collaborate with all teachers involved at the end of the project to communicate results
  • Present at the “Ontario Council for Technology Education” Conference

Unexpected Challenges

  • Finding time to co-ordinate with other teachers involved in the project
  • Collecting sufficient clear 2L pop bottles to complete a class set of vertical gardens
  • Working with demanding classes and schedules
  • Overcoming a learning curve when:
    • using power tools (such as drills)
    • designing a stable system that does not leak 
  • Preventing fertilized water from dripping onto plant leaves
  • Finding ideal locations to hang the gardens to ensure adequate light levels

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

  • Students gained an appreciation for, and a deeper understanding of, the importance of employing sustainable management of water and land resources while honing their creative, collaborative and critical thinking skills
  • Students were exposed to the importance of promoting vertical farming practices in remote communities, high-density areas and low-income living situations
  • Students learned about the diversity of local gardening techniques
  • Students developed responsibility by caring for a living thing


School/Teacher Sharing

  • Shared information from our project at a Rainbow District School Board PD session available to all RDSB staff
  • Used technology to collaborate between classes at different schools (iPads and/or Google Hangouts)
  • Co-ordinated classroom visits for interested students and/or parents

Community Sharing

  • Conducted a workshop for teachers province-wide at the “Ontario Council for Technology Education” Conference; teachers were guided through the construction of their own vertical garden system
  • Presented to the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council with members attending from the Sudbury Horticultural Society, Food Rescue program and Greenhouse Canada, as well as various city employees
  • Established a relationship with local business and community groups to gather advice and input in furthering our project

Project Evaluation

We feel that our project was a success. We were able to expand on our vertical pop bottle gardens by sharing the process with teachers in our school board and throughout Ontario. Working together on this project allowed us to grow as educators. The challenges we encountered were overcome by effective collaboration within our team, as well as with the support of professionals within our community. We are excited about the possibilities this project holds and are looking forward to growing our project in future years.