‘The students deserved this’: Fort Cherry dedicates greenhouse

April 12, 2017 GMT

Fort Cherry High School dedicated its greenhouse Thursday at a ceremony that drew school administrators, faculty, staff and students.The greenhouse, which cost about $35,000, replaces a 40-year-old greenhouse that Dr. Trisha Craig, director of curriculum, said had become “a safety hazard.”“The students deserved this, and (agricultural science teacher) Jodie Hoover deserved this,” said Craig. “We have a very strong FFA program, and the students learn so much through the hands-on experiences in that greenhouse.“The greenhouse is used by students in the agricultural science program to grow flowers, plants and vegetables through soil growth and hydroponics.Students sell hanging baskets, bedding plants and vegetables, and the money raised enables students to continue to grow the plants, attend field trips and conventions, and participate in essay contests and other academic activities.The greenhouse is a key part of the school district’s vibrant vocational-agriculture program, which also includes aquaponics and hydroponics.“This greenhouse is a massive improvement. It’s so much better than the other one, which was basically hoops with a tarp over it,” said senior Justin Mills. “There was no heater control, while this greenhouse is totally automated.“Hoover said about 116 of the high school’s 350 students are enrolled in the vo-ag program.Said Craig, “Agriculture is more than just farming. It’s very high-tech these days. Students are learning more than how to plant a garden. They’re learning the biology, they’re learning the ecology, they’re learning about sustainability. It’s important. Not just our region, but regions across the country and around the world are trying to find sustainable means for agriculture.“As part of the vo-ag program, students plan to raise koi and sell them to homeowners with decorative ponds.Vo-ag students also participate in floral design.They have produced centerpieces and corsages for baby and wedding showers, weddings and school events using flowers Hoover orders from a wholesaler in New Jersey.The school district has partnered with other school and local universities on projects, and the high school is partnering with elementary students on a vertical living wall project using recycled materials that will result in a salsa garden, Hoover said.The projects promote hands-on, real-world, problem-based learning.The completion of the greenhouse was a collaborative effort.It was funded through grants from Washington Financial and the Ready to Learn Grant program, and received assistance from Ed Strnisa Cement Contractor Inc., Bozic Communications and Fort Cherry employees.The dedication included tours of the greenhouse and a continental breakfast.