Members of our Middle School Sustainability Club had the incredible opportunity to engage in service learning at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation organic farming project on Banana Island. This is a newly developing entrepreneurial project launched by Blue Dragon using sustainable, chemical-free farming techniques to grow food for their own consumption; and as the land is quite close to their Hanoi centre and accommodation, this will help to reduce their carbon footprint on a couple of different levels.
We were presented with a big challenge the farm was facing: the fruit and vegetable plants were stressed and weak. This is a sign that the soil was lacking nutrients; but without proper testing, it would be difficult to know how to help. The MS Sustainability Club was very excited for this call out to help solve a very real problem that our service partner was facing.
The service learning group asked one of our resident chemists, Ms Lien, and plant & soil expert, Henry Herbert, to join them on site to work with the students and farmers. The student group and experts tested the soil and water in the gardens, water well, and river bank. We set up a “lab” in the farm, and tested our samples for pH, as well as other chemicals including ammonia, copper, nitrates, phosphates, potassium, etc. These tests helped us to better understand what chemicals are present in the land, as well as how to improve the fertility of the soil and health of the plants.
We also were able to explore the farm, and learned about the fruits and vegetables growing there. We learned how to spot plants under stress, and how to look for clues about what might be harming them. We removed insects that were feeding on the plants, and “taste tested” some of the fruit growing (they were delicious).
These test results and observations helped the team make a plan for rehabilitating the soil. One exciting part of this plan is to add weekly deposits of nutritious fertilizer from the UNIS composting center to the garden. Another is to add plants to the gardens that attract predatory insects like ladybugs, so they can protect the plants from being eaten.
We are excited to continue this work in partnership with Blue Dragon and our resident experts!!