FMLD grant helps students hands get dirty

GCFMLD grant helps students' hands get dirty
GCFMLD grant helps students' hands get dirtyRifle High School Sophomore Emma Self carefully plucked the small brown tipped leaf from the basket of flowers.

“I love being in the greenhouse. I would have our class out here all day, every day,” she said, returning to her work of preparing the vibrant flowers and vegetables for this weekend’s plant sale.

Self, and her classmates spend the bulk of their plant systems class in a greenhouse on the upper campus of Rifle High School - a greenhouse that stood vacant for many years until a Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant infused new life into the translucent building.

“The greenhouse was not a functional situation,” said Rifle High School Agriculture Instructor Ryan Hudson. “It had several issues, the biggest one being the heating system, and it was not feasible in the budget to operate with the propane system.”greenhouse

Hudson’s classes used the building minimally his first two years at RHS, but with the help of the GCFMLD grant, and the Garfield Re-2 Facilities Department, the building is bustling with activity and supporting student learning.

The $12,000 grant upgraded the fuel source from propane to natural gas, and upgraded the heating unit to make the greenhouse function more efficiently and reduce the cost to the school district, and specifically the agriculture program. 

“It has helped us a ton, and now we have a fully functional greenhouse. We've been able to have a plant sale for the community that helps kids with marketing and  public service in addition to the instruction.”

First year RHS agriculture instructor Megan Capps teaches the plant systems class and explained that the working greenhouse allows students to go beyond the simple botany of plants.

“We've spent a handful of days in the classroom learning about things like cell structure and growing cycles, but most of that has been translated out here into real world applicable skills,” explained Capps.  It's a really good opportunity for kids to get their hands literally dirty and working and seeing how much hard work it takes for this to pay off.”

Students in the plant systems class run the greenhouse and have been preparing for a plant sale April 30 and May 1. They have priced material, seed costs, determining what plants should be sold - specifically what they thought people would like to buy and what would grow in the local area. 

“They have done every step of the process - research, purchasing, planting, transplanting, weeding and fertilizing,” added Capps.

That has been the biggest surprise for Self - the constant transplanting.

“It's amazing to see how fast things can grow and the amount of time and effort it takes just managing the plants in the greenhouse for a sale that's gonna last a day and a half,” she laughed. “We come back from a weekend and (the plants) are all two to three inches taller.”  

Ultimately, said Hudson, the quality of experience that Rifle High School plant science students received would not be nearly as robust without the support of the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant.

“Anything green is good for kids. We can teach plants.  We can do PowerPoints all day long on germination or pest management. But we leave the classroom and go to the greenhouse. Once you walk through the doors, it's hands on germination - it happens in front of them; It’s hands on pest management - we kill the bugs. If the watering system quits working the plants die. It's a direct link between a functioning greenhouse with quality heat and the hands-on learning experience where kids learn more because it's actually happening to them, and because of them, instead of words in a book.

For Emma Self, who also lives on a farm with a greenhouse, her plant systems experience has helped her land a summer job.

“I really wasn't considering a greenhouse job at first, but then after being in this greenhouse and just being part growing and being able to be outside, I just got really interested. I thought  that it would be really beneficial to be outside and involved in the community and have a job that I can do more with farming that will benefit me with my home life as well as what we do here at school.”
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