South Mecklenburg High’s backyard greenhouse is finally getting a lift.
It’s been unused and dilapidated for several years, but about 75 students traded in their backpacks and pencils for hardhats and hammers last week to tear it down, rebuild it and make plans to grow organic crops.
The students involved are from the school’s IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering and Art) Academy, and they’re working with students from the ACE (Architecture, Construction and Engineering) Club. Both groups are getting professional help from JE Dunne Construction.
The IDEA Academy focuses on learning as a collaborative and cohesive process.
Brittany Stone, an English teacher in the IDEA Academy, came up with the idea for the Green Apple Day of Service, and South Meck students are running with it.
Last week they framed walls, grouted foundation blocks and tore off the old mesh covering other structures called cold houses. They also weeded and cleaned out the areas, and spent time salvaging wood and metal scraps for which they’ll find new uses.
The students will also design and build the layout, and the irrigation and electric systems. Stone said once they figure out how much more money they’ll need to complete the project, her English IDEA classes will write grants to get funding.
Students want to plant fruits and vegetables in the greenhouse for the culinary arts class at South Mecklenburg, and will later decide how to use any extra food.
Stone said there will also be an artistic opportunity for students with landscape design.
Ruben Arguello, a senior and the ACE Club president, said he has helped build hypothetical projects at school, and this is the first time he and his classmates can build something that will actually be put to good use.
“How many people get the chance to build your own design and work with professionals?” he asked, grinning. “It’s really exciting.”
“It’s a good opportunity for us to be outside and be more eco-friendly,” said Daniel Allegrucci, 14, who said he thinks the design plans can be more efficient by creating a Ferris-wheel design to hold more plants.
Tennah Murphy, a freshman, said she wants to be a set designer someday and is excited about helping design the new greenhouse. She said the project is a win-win.
“It’s helping the community, it’s helping us – and it’s giving us career options.”
Carissa Caldwell, also a freshman, said she enjoys DIY projects and is excited to get to work on such a project at school.
Her classmate, Tiffany Bailey, is enthusiastic about the project for a different reason.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to helping provide produce for people who need it.
Tiffany said she knows she and her classmates have a long road of construction, fundraising and gardening ahead of them. “We’re all hard workers,” she said. “I think we’ll get it all done.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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