Greenhouses used for learning and growing food, flowers
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 05/21/2012 2:01 PM
NEW HAMPTON, Iowa —On a recent afternoon, three sections of New Hampton second graders and their teachers —Mrs. Geerts, Mrs. Nuss and Mrs. Wakeman — got to visit New Hampton High School's high tunnel and all seasons greenhouses. The students are studying plants and living and nonliving things. A recent week's spelling words were flower names.
One group of students watched a video about growing plants and sorted wildflower seeds in the agriculture classroom while the other group visited the greenhouses.
"There are many sizes and textures of wildflower seeds and we let them sort the seeds however they wanted," said Jim Russ, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at New Hampton Community Schools. "They did it according to size, color or shape."
In the all seasons greenhouse, high school agriculture students Hannah Rosonke, Emily Hammel, Elisa Russ, Ashley Deetz, Corey Cronquist and Jessica Baker instructed the youngsters on how to separate and pot tomato seedlings. Kaylie Reicks recorded everything on video.
"What type of plants are these?" Elisa Russ asked the students.
"They might be daffodils," said one student.
"No, it's a vegetable," she coaxed.
"Tomatoes," chimed several students.
"That's right," Elisa Russ said.
Hammel directed the youngsters to grab a clump of seedlings, split the plants and put them into the little compartments in the seedling trays. Zach Wilker and Zach Zeien showed how they raise pepper plants.
"Good job," said Hammel as the students planted trays of tomatoes.
The agriculture students start everything from seed and re-pot as plants grow. Vegetable plants are transferred to the high tunnel in May.
Brandon Diesburg and Zeien showed the broccoli and cucumbers that are growing hydroponically in water with clay balls or just a small amount of soil. They recycle all the water.
Jim Russ told the students that the school will buy many of the vegetables for its salad bar from FFA greenhouse. He pointed to a thermostat and explained that computer controls raise and lower inflated sidewalls depending on temperature.
"It's pretty fun," said Tori Rosonke, 8. "I like that we get to plant tomatoes and figure out all the kinds of plants in here."
The second grader said her family has a garden, and she enjoys helping with it. She said it's awesome that the vegetables grown in the greenhouse are used for school lunch.
The tomatoes, bell, banana and jalapeno peppers grown by the FFA last fall were used by horticulture students to make salsa for the school lunch program. Green peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes were used in the salad bar last fall, and lettuce from the all seasons greenhouse was on the menu in recent weeks. Broccoli, zucchini, squash and herbs will be added this summer.
"I didn't eat peppers until this year," Hammel said. "I planted them and figured I may as well eat them. The salsa is awesome."
Jim Russ said that Hammel's experience is not uncommon. Many students have started eating fresh vegetables that they never ate before. He admits he never ate green peppers until they started growing them in the high tunnel.
"Now I eat them all the time," he said. "I'm learning right along with the students."