WDC students gain hands-on learning in school greenhouse
Wadena-Deer Creek's high-tunnel greenhouse is an outdoor classroom where plants and students are being nurtured.
WDC High School agriculture teacher/industrial arts teacher Richard Muckala said the biggest benefit of the school’s greenhouse for students is the hands-on experience and becoming aware of how food is produced.
“They are taking what they are learning in the classroom and applying it to the real world,” said Muckala, who teaches Plant and Horticulture Science at WDC. “When you do things with your hands, research has shown you retain 90 percent more of the knowledge instead of just reading it.”
WDC’s greenhouse is managed by Kathy Connell and about 20 high school students from Muckala’s Plant and Horticulture Science class, as well as student service workers.
Connell said students are gaining knowledge about different varieties of plants and why some do better than others in certain climates and soils, as well as fertilizing, plant diseases and insects. They are learning the basics of agriculture and applying what they learn in the greenhouse.
“The kids are just great!” said Connell, who is known to her students as Grannie Green. “They are so responsive to what we are doing in the greenhouse. They are learning what I like to refer to as, ‘from dirt to food’. ”
Connell recalls as a child falling in love with gardening. However, it was more than a hobby while growing up; the produce provided much-needed food for her and her family, she said.
Today, that passion for growing and nurturing plants is stronger than ever and she's sharing her wealth of knowledge with WDC students. She’s used her experience as an organic farm inspector and as owner/operator of Red Fern Gardens in Sebeka to back up her experience.
This fall, under Connell’s leadership, students have planted eight varieties of lettuce from seed, which is then transplanted in rows in the high-tunnel greenhouse. They’ve also planted carrots and spinach in the high-tunnel greenhouse, and plans are to prepare the little greenhouse for growing plants this winter.
Over the past few weeks, students have been harvesting beautiful crops of lettuce, then taking the produce to the middle/high school’s kitchen where they carefully wash and weigh the lettuce. Students then keep records of production in their notebooks.
The best part though is students and staff are enjoying the fresh lettuce at school lunch at both the middle/high school and elementary cafeterias. "It's very good," said Jerry Wang, as he piles on a heaping helping of fresh lettuce on his lunch plate.
WDC freshman Jordan Kain said he looks forward to spending as much time as he can in the greenhouse. “I love the greenhouse because I get to work with plants and till,” said Kain.
But what Kain is most proud of is seeing students eating lettuce he helped grow in the greenhouse. “I feel accomplished!” he said with a big smile.
WDC freshman Brianna Burke couldn’t agree more with her classmate Kain.
“Once you have a seed and see it grow and grow and grow, and then the lettuce goes to other kids in the school, and you’re feeding them. That’s a really good feeling.”