Rice Dreams

By Eve Pranis

"A reading unit on China prompted my second graders to ask whether we could try growing rice," reports Norfolk, MA, teacher Simone Favaloro. "We successfully germinated some rice seed in big pots, then set them in trays of water in the GrowLab, but noticed that growth slowed once the grass was about 5 inches," she adds. After discussing how their classroom conditions might differ from those in more tropical rice paddies (e.g., temperature, water, light, and so on), the class brainstormed shifts they could make -- increasing the light, for instance -- then revised some growing conditions.

"We're not sure what had an impact, but the rice is now 1 foot tall and thriving," says Simone. "Most of the students don't know where the actual rice comes from on the plant," she explains, "so we're eager to see how the adventure unfolds."

Indoor Rice-Growing Tips

Here are some tips we've gleaned for raising rice in GrowLabs or classroom windowsills. If you try your hand at it, please share your experiences with us.

* Add moist soilless mix to pots that are at least 6 inches in diameter.

* Plant three seeds per pot, evenly spaced.

* Place the pot in a shallow container with 2 to 3 inches of warm water. Keep the water level to at least 1 inch at all times.

* Leave the lights on for at least 12 hours per day, or keep plants on a warm windowsill that gets maximum light.

* Watch for signs of seed heads in two to three months.

Note: If your classroom rice seems sluggish or stops growing, consider checking farm and garden stores for a source of "chelated" iron to add when you fertilize.

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