Upsala greenhouse a learning experience
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 06/14/2012 2:57 PM
UPSALA, Minn. — If you are passionate about peppers or tantalized by tomatoes, try the varieties grown in the Upsala High School ag department's greenhouse.
Seventh-grade ag students planted more than 44,000 seeds in late February and early March and are selling them at their greenhouse plant sale.
They offer more than 50 pepper and 20 tomato varieties, said Gretchen Schleper, Upsala agricultural education instructor and FFA adviser.
The 32 seventh-grade students have done it all, from planting the seed, to transplanting, watering and fertilizing, to organizing the greenhouse for the plant sale and doing the sale.
It's hard to find an idle student at the sale. Each one helps customers, transplants plants or finalizes sales.
Schleper uses the greenhouse as a teaching tool for several classes. The welding class built the framework for the plant stands. The shop class built benches, and the food science class transplanted plants while learning about plant nutrition.
Curtis Robertson's office class also got involved. It was a perfect opportunity for the 13 students to use their accounting skills.
"During the beginning portion of the semester, I was looking for a way to engage the students in a realistic business model," he said. "After talking with Mrs. Schleper, we both sparked the idea of using the greenhouse as our business model."
Office class students developed a computer program the ag students could use. The point-of-sale model tracks customers, income, inventory left in stock, a daily review, weekly review and more.
Ag students use one of two laptops paid for by a Pfizer grant and help from the Stearns Veterinary Outlet.
Doris Lampert likes the convenience of purchasing plants locally. She says the program is a good experience for students.
"It may get them interested in gardening," she said.
The plant sale draws customers from a 30-mile radius, Schleper said.
While some of the hanging flowers offered are shipped to the school, students prepare the baskets.
The students also do custom potting. Customers bring in empty pots. Some may tell the students what types of plants they want or if it will be placed in a sunny or shady spot.
The plant sale ends around the second weekend in June. The greenhouse is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and from 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, she said.
The $5,000 to $7,000 generated is used to purchase, among other things, new welders, textbooks and water testing kits used by the hydroponics class.
"My seniors know that the equipment they are using now is due to the plant sales they made as seventh-graders," Schleper said.
Once the sale is done, students will gather the equipment, wash it and store it for the next growing season. Recycling is key and has kept production costs down, Schleper said.