Inquiry and Natural Sciences at White Mountain

What do hydroponic growing systems, stealth technology, local farms and urban Chinese food security have in common? They are all topics that four White Mountain Juniors and Seniors have selected to study for their Science Research Seminars.

On a dry and bright November morning, I walked into the upstairs classroom in Steele and arrived before the instructor.  Gabe was running a few minutes late, but his students had already begun their class.  In the center of the room, Wenyi ’18 flipped between a physics textbook and her laptop – computing an equation which reflected her knowledge on the mechanics of light refraction.  In the back, Alex ’17 watered his arugula microgreens – and Owen ’17 began to saw through a foot-thick PVC pipe.

The Science Research Seminar isn’t your standard high school course. How often do you see students begin working before the arrival of their teacher!?

These students are motivated, in part, because they chose their own personalized projects.  A science and lab specific seminar that meets three times a week, completion of this course can fulfill the White Mountain School’s LASR requirement.  It also gives our students the opportunity to investigate an area of interest and develop a semester-long project which incorporates laboratory procedure, research, and data collection.  Ultimately, students that elect this course will write a literature review, structure a research report and prepare work for a final presentation.

“In urban China, where I’m from, you can’t just go out and plant your own food.  Land is expensive, there isn’t much fertile soil – and honestly, we need food security in our big cities,” said Owen, who spoke to me while fumbling a book, a saw, and a hose between his hands.  “There are many problems with our food in China, like how many people will dye fruits and vegetables to make them sellable. I was interested in learning ways to fix that.”

Owen hopes to create a viable, vertically designed hydroponic food growing system which could be used with minimal space in already cramped urban areas.

During the hour that I visited class, each of the four students in the seminar worked independently but diligently on their projects.  The room hummed with curiosity, the students bounced ideas between their books, each other, and their teacher Gabe.

“Gabe! I think I’m ready for my first round of actual tests!” said Alex, who, like Owen, had also crafted his own hydroponic set up but with a slightly different goal.

“What are you testing?”

“Taste, texture, color, and appearance of my microgreens,” said Alex.

“Have you looked into other surveys on food? Did you read the article I sent you from the UNH lab? Did you do your research about how to develop a questionnaire that is specific to food quality testing?” Gabe probed.

“Whoa, the questions never end…” Alex responded, finally.

They certainly don’t.


By Eliot Taft, Assistant Director of Admission and Communication






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