West Charlotte High School is bringing life back to its dormant greenhouse.
Principal John Wall Jr., several science teachers, the WCHS National Alumni Association and leaders of Project LIFT/Communities In Schools are all working together on the project, which will be patterned after a successful one at Garinger High School.
The school also has reached out to 100 Gardens to help guide the process. 100 Gardens is an organization that believes education is key to fighting poverty and improving nutrition worldwide. Their goal is to merge innovative business practices with educational, environmental, agricultural and social justice objectives.
The school must raise $5,000 during the first phase of the project to repair electrical work, fans and flooring, among other projects.
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Completing the project will cost $40,000, and it has generated a lot of excitement.
“Literally, the whole biology curriculum can be tied into the greenhouse. Biology is the study of life,” said Erin Burns, a biology teacher who leads a team of six at West Charlotte. “There are so many things that can be taught, including genetically modified plants, genetics, plant reproduction and much more.”
Burns said chemistry and earth science teachers, as well as culinary teachers, will utilize the greenhouse.
“I love the idea of our students taking home organic produce. … Taking it from seed to harvest is powerful,” Burns said.
During last summer, several students worked to clear out the greenhouse. They also planted a few vegetables in raised beds outside the greenhouse. The students were able to share zucchini, tomatoes and herbs with their families. But Burns said she wants more students to get involved.
Daisy Walker, volunteer coordinator for Project LIFT and Communities In Schools, also has a keen interest in the success of the greenhouse.
“There are so many possibilities with this project,” she said.
When Walker saw the greenhouse at West Charlotte was not being used, she contacted Cynthia Marshall, who formerly was the executive director of Communities In Schools.
“I got Cynthia Marshall involved, and she reached out to 100 Gardens to get professional assistance,” Walker said.
Marshall said she has seen the success of a greenhouses at other schools.
“I like this a lot because it’s an enhancement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math education). I hope the size of this model can be put into all feeder schools of Project LIFT,” Marshall said. “I think it is very important to get the first phase of the project underway quickly.”
Walker said she plans to work on bringing in the community and creating partnerships to help with the greenhouse project. Because of her love for flowers, Walker also hopes to beautify the West Charlotte campus. Last year, she started bringing in flowers to get things started.
“Flowers make you feel good. … They are soothing,” she said.
She also believes that flowers give a positive impression to students, staff and visitors.
George Metz, the re-entry site coordinator with Communities In Schools, also sees the value of the greenhouse. He said he believes the students are positively impacted by being involved with the greenhouse and gardening.
Marshall said engagement is the key.
“Students must learn to nurture and understand that life isn’t something that happens overnight,” she said. “I really hope a gardening mentoring program will be developed out of this effort.”