Greenhouse gives students firsthand experiences

SPACE TO GROW — Students are working to fill the space of the new greenhouse with various plants and vegetables.
A close up shot of a hydroponic garden tower inside the greenhouse.

By Gabby Christensen
Over the course of this semester, Boone Central students and faculty have been utilizing the school’s new Greenhouse Learning Lab for various hands-on learning opportunities in both science and agriculture.
The greenhouse, located south of the school’s wrestling room, was completed at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
The 30 x 60 foot structure includes an irrigation system, climate control and interior shade system. The concrete floor allows for easy clean up and sanitation.
Boone Central teachers Abby Hitchler and Katie Wilson are co-teaching a plant science class, which requires students to spend at least half of their weekly classroom time in the greenhouse doing hands-on work and their own research projects.
The class includes curriculum in greenhouse techniques, botany, agronomy, ecology, range management, genetics, conservation and other topics.
Additionally, entrepreneurship and FFA students will have the opportunity to plan and implement school-based produce and plant sales.
Students are also learning hands-on in topics such as plant physiology, plant genetics, plant pathogens and crop yields.
Currently, there are 18 students enrolled in the class.
The greenhouse features hydroponic garden towers, in which the plants are not grown in soil, but in water with nutrients.
Through this method, water is pumped up the tower and then trickled down, providing water and nutrients to plants that are in small baskets throughout the tower.
Wilson said maintenance includes adding water and nutrients as needed and maintaining the correct pH.
Because the water is cycled through, Wilson said this method uses 10 percent of the water traditional soil gardening does.
Wilson said students will also be using an aquaponics system, which combines hydroponics — plants grown in water without soil — and aquaculture, or fish farming.
This is a closed system in which the fish provide nutrients for the plants, with the help of bacteria, and plants clean the water for the fish.
When it is balanced, Wilson said the only thing students must do is add fish food and occasionally some new water.
According to Wilson, students not only learn how to grow produce, but also how to raise fish.

Read the complete story in the Nov. 28 Albion News & Petersburg Press, Print and E-Editions.