Sixth-Graders Spearhead Greenhouse Renovation

Union Sixth-Graders Spearhead Greenhouse Renovation
Posted on 02/13/2020
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collage of students in union greenhouseUnion Elementary School had a dilemma. What to do with their greenhouse, which had been built as part of an Eagle Scout project, when it was badly damaged during a storm. Sixth-grade teacher Madison Geiger found out that when you pair that with a lesson about the environment, magic can happen.

Geiger began the enrichment unit on the environment with her students growing a green bean or sunflower from seed. Many were successful, but a few plants suffered from over or under watering. When reflecting on the project, Geiger asked, “with that knowledge under your belt, what do we do now?” 

Students took the reins, researching what types of plants grow best in this climate, as well as beginning to design ideas for the greenhouse and surrounding space. Taryn Delaney suggested growing different types of herbs for the school’s culinary center, as well as rehabbing the existing gazebo to be used as outdoor seating for lunch periods. Other plans included making bird feeders to hang around the school, pulling up dead plants in the greenhouse and planting flowers to beautify the landscaping.

Towards the end of first semester, with future plans presented, the sixth-graders held a coin drive to raise money that would be used to purchase supplies for the greenhouse. With a goal of $500 in mind, the students set to work promoting the idea. And their marketing efforts paid off. Nearly $1450 was collected. They’ve also caught the eye of an anonymous donor whose donation will fund rebuilding the greenhouse.

Geiger plans to move the greenhouse so that it’s attached to the school and turn the current space into an outdoor garden. “I really want the kids to be hands on in the growing process,” she said. “It is so eye opening to me that (so many kids) haven’t experienced something growing.” 

With plans in hand, the students are now using their enrichment time as a way to research how to make the greenhouse sustainable once it is rebuilt and brainstorming fundraising ideas on how to keep it going. The unit has also expanded to study at the environment as a whole. “How can we maintain our lifestyle, but have the least impact on the environment?” asked Geiger.

Using PowerPoint presentations, videos, posters and more, students are presenting how they’ve learned to help the environment. Kyra Egan put a lot of thought into how to balance the impact her actions have on the environment. “During the project, I was constantly thinking that we need the resources, but we’re hurting the environment,” she said. When she turned her statement into a question, “How can we get the resources without hurting the environment,” she found her answer. “What if we give back more than we take?”she asked.

“By using the greenhouse, it’s more beneficial than harmful to the environment,” explained Eagan. Concerned about the amount of resources needed to build the greenhouse, she believes that “by planting new plants, when seeds fall, it will give the environment even more than we took away.” 

Emmy Burgei agrees. “We took the space for the greenhouse, but we’re giving back more than we took away.”

During this enrichment rotation, the class has studied ways to help the environment overcome deforestation, pollution, fossil fuel and over population. The class recently watched Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” as a learning tool about how a person’s actions impact the environment. “That’s what’s going on in our real world right now,” said Delaney. “Forty percent of all plastic ends up somewhere else instead of being recycled.” 

With the use of grow lights, a mini-garden has been created in the culinary center. Radishes, carrots, onions, herbs and even two avocado seeds have been planted. “They’re invested in it and they’re learning,” said Geiger. “They’re thinking about things most sixth-graders don’t think about.” 

Emmy Burgei, Kyra Egan and Taryn Delaney (from left) show off the herbs and avocado plants growing in Union Elementary’s culinary center since the school’s greenhouse was damaged in a storm.