Students get their hands dirty in G-C’s new greenhouse

Greenfield-Central students Colton Kiser, Tyler Dingman and Donovan Colson prepare containers with soil for planting during class in the new greenhouse. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — There’s a classroom at Greenfield-Central High School where students can really get their hands dirty.

On a recent sunny morning, inside the 2,100-square-foot greenhouse behind the school, teacher Scott Jacobs directed students to each stick a finger into the soil of some plants to test the moisture levels.

A few dozen containers with inch-tall plants were lined up on the waist-high platforms throughout the greenhouse, but Jacobs said that come this spring, the entire greenhouse will be teeming with 12,000 to 15,000 full-grown plants grown by students.

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The students will have a plant sale starting in early May, as agriculture students have done at the school for more than 20 years, raising funds to buy materials for future classes.

It’s that kind of hands-on learning that has been such an invaluable tool to students who wish to learn more about horticulture, said Jacobs, who has been teaching various types of agriculture at the school for the past four years.

“You can learn things in a textbook, but this is teaching applied science,” he said.

Jacobs was thrilled when he heard a new greenhouse was being built last year to replace the former greenhouse, which had served students for the past 25 years.

“The old greenhouse had done its job well, but it was tired,” Jacobs said earlier this week, as he led a class within the outdoor learning lab, which was built last summer.

The new structure, which is kept at a balmy 80 degrees, was one of a number of construction projects the Greenfield-Central School Corporation wrapped up last year.

While the pandemic wreaked havoc on the school schedule, it did allow a convenient time for the school system to check off construction projects, Superintendent Harold Olin said.

The new greenhouse is the crown jewel of the school’s agricultural program, he said.

“For many years, Greenfield-Central has been very proud of our agriculture program,” Olin said. “Our students now have one of the finest greenhouse facilities you will find in a K-12 school. I am confident that our students will continue to do great things in that setting.”

While the previous greenhouse was closed down in the winter months, Jacobs said the new structure will likely be used year-round.

Students who sign up for horticultural classes typically have some sort of passion for agriculture, said Jacobs, whether that stems from a personal hobby, participation in 4-H or FFA, or some sort of career goal.

Senior Elle Kunkel, 18, an avid gardener, signed up because she’s fascinated by how plants work.

She sees firsthand how plants grow in the “massive” garden she lovingly maintains with her dad at home, she said, but she’s learning a lot about why plants grow and produce the way they do.

“In my garden I can see the results, but I don’t always know why things happen, like problems stemming from over watering versus under watering, or mold versus bugs,” said Elle, who plans to study forestry at Michigan Technological University in the fall.

Fellow senior Colton Kiser, 18, plans to become a welder, but he still wanted to gain experience in the agriculture classes offered at the high school.

“I enjoy the class. I didn’t really expect it to focus so much on the science of agriculture, which is interesting,” said Colton, a member of the school’s FFA group.

A big part of what students learn in the greenhouse is connected to food production, Jacobs said, so students learn a lot about how food is grown and harvested.

Jacobs said the annual plant sale is a great learning tool for students, who get a kick out of selling the plants they’ve lovingly tended to throughout the spring.

“We’re learning this as a business. We’ve been studying the production of goods, and then we get into sales and marketing,” he said.

To learn upcoming details for the spring sale, follow the Greenfield Central FFA page on Facebook.

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A student-sponsored plant sale will take place in May to raise funds for Greenfield-Central’s agriculture program. To learn upcoming details for the sale, follow the Greenfield Central FFA page on Facebook.

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Greenfield-Central wraps up its $15 million list of renovations at all of its buildings and is now looking at its next project. Page A7