Long Cane Middle School opens new greenhouse

Published 6:17 pm Monday, January 21, 2019

Plants weren’t the only things growing in the newly installed greenhouse at Long Cane Middle School on Friday. Students eagerly sifted through a pile of seed packets and scooped dirt while asking a steady stream of questions about the plants.

Stacie Hart, an eighth-grade science teacher at LCMS, fielded questions — like how many seeds per pot, and is it too early to plant watermelons — from her agriculture students even as she explained how the school got a greenhouse.

“My principal took us up to the school [in Northern Alabama], and we toured around, watched how the kids interacted, talked to them about how they like the different classes,” Hart said. “Then we came back and met as a team [and decided] this is something we can do.”

Hart said that after the visit, the teachers who took part each developed plans to implement programs that they had observed and were passionate about. Hart researched an agriculture curriculum, and thanks to grant funding, LCMS now has a greenhouse where students can learn about plants in ways that would not have been possible in the school’s previous space.

“A lot of my [Future Farmers of America] people come through here,” Hart said.

“A nursery here in town, Adaleigh’s, donated almost all of the plants that they need to learn about because that is one of their competitions. They did it this [past] year without having seen the real plant in front of them. We had pictures and cards and stuff. Now, they get hands on [experience]. They get to see it all through the year, what it looks like at different phases of its life cycle, how to care for it, what they need to do if something goes wrong and all of that. It is going to be very helpful.”

Students said that they thought seeing the plants in person would make it easier to quickly identify them at competitions.

“I think it’s helpful that we are going to see what the plants look like in person for me and the horticulture team,” said Hailey Clark, a LCMS student and FFA member.

The students also hope that familiarity will help them standout at the competition.

“We get to show our skills, and it helps us FFA members to increase our skills, so we can help our chapter and different places and show other FFA groups what we know,” said Chole Kelley, a LCMS student and FFA member.

It isn’t all about just knowing what the plants look like however. In the greenhouse, students are already taking the opportunity to learn how to care for plants that could not be outside during winter months or in the classroom.

“I have been learning how to water and fertilize and how to balance a plant’s health,” Clark said. “We’ve learned the temperature that the greenhouse needs to be and how to care for the plants properly.”

According to Hart, the agriculture class will continue to use grow cabinets inside her classroom to encourage early seed growth, but the greenhouse will make more projects possible.

“We have the grow cabinets inside,” Hart said. “They start a lot of stuff in that. We do everything from seed. I just feel like they need to see the whole process versus going out and buying the plugs, so that is what they are doing.”

Hart’s classes have also gotten to incubate eggs to hatch chicks, groom a cow and grow plants in an outdoor raised bed garden.

“They enjoy it,” Hart said. “Even the kids who you would think would have no desire. For example, when we first got our raised beds built, the county comes and dumps this huge load of mulch for us, and so I have my classes out there shoveling. It was like the more you shoveled, the bigger the pile got.”

Due the size of the task, Hart asked around the school for volunteers to help, and she said that many of those same students who volunteered to help shovel asked to join the class. Her class also sometimes moves beyond the basic nuts and bolts of agriculture into what to expect from the industry that some of the students may later decide to become a part of.

“They are getting more interested in it,” Hart said. “I do a whole unit with them about Project 2050, giving them the realization that if we don’t do something, and if their generation doesn’t act fast, we are going to have a food shortage in not too long. It is opening their eyes.”

Hart plans to take care of the greenhouse during summer vacation and other school holidays, but she said she may allow some students to help.