By Anna Jauhola
Lancaster gained another scientific tool this spring through grant funding and a generous donation.
Science teacher Laura Reese, her students and other staff overcame the elements and succeeded in setting up a 9×14-foot greenhouse.
“Mr. Hunstad saw grant opportunities and saw other schools that had greenhouses,” she said. “Unfortunately for us, you can barely get things in the ground before school lets out.”
Earlier in the year, the school received a Monsanto grant that paid for the majority of the greenhouse. Reese said a private donation took care of the rest. She researched greenhouse kits online and found the best one to fit the school’s needs.
She said her students were excited to learn they’d be getting a greenhouse, but didn’t anticipate the challenges that turned into a comedy of errors in setting up the building.
“They had some trouble getting it built because it’s really, really windy,” Reese said. “The panels on the greenhouse add most of its structure because the frame itself is just aluminum. So we had both ends up and the linkage to both ends, and they just went ‘fwoop.’”
The frame fell over, but the resilient shop students and their teacher, Mike Peterson, led the charge and were able to complete the structure.
“Then the next day, it was kittywampus, it moved in the wind and so it’s right next to the building,” Reese said. “So we’ve watched this thing fall down, then moved it to the bus garage to get it out of the wind and then moved it back, and put it back on its wood base. We figured that would be OK.”
Peterson put the last screws in the greenhouse’s foundation, which completely secured the building to the concrete pad outside Reese’s north-facing windows.
Behind the firmly secured building is the right amount of space for gutters from the roof to run for Reese’s class to collect water. She hopes to line a few barrels behind the greenhouse next year to store the water.
Although they set up the greenhouse this spring, it will not be used until this fall. Reese will particularly work in the greenhouse with her seventh graders while they work on science fair projects.
Each of them will work with kidney beans and it will be helpful to extend the growing season by using the greenhouse.
This coming fall, Reese will also be teaching environmental science to high schoolers. As a part of that class, the high school students will help Reese operate the greenhouse one day a week.
They already have a head start on getting ready for next school year as well. Reese said they have shelving mostly ready to move into the greenhouse and people have been donating flower pots to use for planting.
They’ll plant as soon as school starts and use the greenhouse into early November.
The building does not have secondary heat, Reese said, so they won’t use it through the winter, but start up again at the beginning of April 2020.
Possibilities in the future include growing plants for fundraising, but there will be plenty of research, along with trial and error before being able to sell plants. For the first plants, the classes will likely give them away to family and friends. Then they’ll work on perfecting their growing techniques.
“I’m super grateful for the people, all the folks who helped us bring this thing about,” Reese said. “It’s been cool. Now I’m just hoping not to let anybody down! It’ll be a learning experience.”
By Anna Jauhola