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Technology education has the means of becoming the catalyst for integrated content and curricula, especially in core academic areas, such as science and mathematics, where it has been found difficult to incorporate other subject matter (Clark & Ernst, 2007). Technology is diverse enough in nature that it can be addressed by a variety of content areas, serving as a true integrator. The study of technology and associated systems, paired with relevant hands-on experience based on real-world application, has great potential for students to learn about as well as apply technological solutions.
The objective of this article is to provide content and reasoning for the purposes of kinesthetic learning applications. Foundational information necessary for expanded investigational practices permits students to research, formulate, and evaluate solutions associated with technological and scientific problems. The information presented will provide instructors with authentic content to serve as a knowledge base for activities. This content will assist in implementing Standard 15 of Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (STL) (ITEA, 2000/2002/2007) into technology education classes.
The application of technological tools (e.g. automated control devices, growing mediums, pumps, etc.) to explain science is important for a better understanding of the occurrences of nature. An excellent example of this is the application of the concept of systems to explain the ecology that supports life cycles for plants and animals. This concept of ecological systems (ecosystems) is fundamental for students to understand as noted in Content Standard C of the National Science Education Standards (NAS, 1996). Ecosystems are made up of nonliving (abiotic) factors (e.g. air, dirt, sunshine, water) and living (biotic) factors (i.e. animals, plants). Naturally occurring ecosystems can be large or small. The earth is considered a large ecosystem made up of many smaller ecosystems (Peterson, Shown, Penick, Berenson, White, Bonnstetter, et al., 2005).
Humans have been creating ecosystems since they began planting seeds for harvest. These ecosystems that are influenced by humans are considered to be artificial ecosystems (i.e. hydroponic systems). Standards for Technological Literacy identifies artificial ecosystems as part of the agricultural and biotechnological designed world and defines them as "human-made environments that are designed to function as a unit and are comprised of humans, plants, and animals" (ITEA, 2000/2002/2007, p. 152). Understanding technology-associated cultural, societal, economical, political, and ethical impacts is also of importance, as highlighted in Standard 4 of Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2000/2002/2007, p. 60).
Many different types of artificial ecosystems are designed to produce raw materials transformed into food. These systems vary in size from large (covering thousands of acres) to small in size (contained inside a bottle). Systems like animal feedlots, greenhouses, and aquaculture ponds are being used to optimize the production of desired outputs (food products), with smaller footprints upon the land.
As the earth's population continues to grow, the need for a readily available food supply increases. One of the effects of the population increase is urban sprawl, which reduces the availability of farmable land and adversely affects the needed food supply. Only six percent of the Earth is suitable for traditional farming. Land suitability and over-farming are both major factors that impact overall food production. "Crops often grow on fields with poor soil quality resulting from acidity and salinity, metal toxicity, drought, diseases, pests, and water-quality problems" (Mahmood & Islam, 2006), p. 943). Humans are turning to technology to look for ways to grow more food in less space.
Hydroponics is one of the methods used for growing large quantities of vegetables in a significantly smaller area. …