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Greenhouse new venue for hands-on learning at University Elementary

Sunshine last week only added to the excitement of students at University Elementary School. It was a perfect day for planting seeds.

They were celebrating their new greenhouse, donated to the Central Valley school, 1613 S. University Road, through a grant from the Washington Potato Commission and Yoke’s.

“I loved it,” said Saige Fisher, one of the students. “I planted tomatoes and salad.”

Students had a choice of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and various herbs. Some of the plants will be given to students’ mothers on Mother’s Day. Some of them will be sold during a rummage sale. Most of the herbs will be used as part of the Food Sense program through Washington State University – volunteers come to the school and teach students about healthy eating.

Principal Sue Lennick said growing plants is a hands-on lesson that relates to many science units. Kindergartners learn about plants and animals. First-graders learn about Earth materials, second-graders about plant life cycles. Third-graders learn about ecosystems, fourth-graders nutrition, the human body and plants and animals. Fifth-graders take life science.

“We teach curriculum that progresses seasonally by incorporating the study of soil, composting, worm bins, seed and vegetative propagations in conjunction with our district-adopted science curriculum,” Lennick wrote in her grant application.

First-graders Jamie Green and Cassandra France were planting dill and lettuce.

“My favorite is green beans,” France said.

“I don’t like vegetables or green beans,” said Green, although she thought if she grew the vegetables herself, she might think about eating them.

Fisher said she loved tomatoes.

“I like the squirty ones,” she said.

The greenhouse was named for a former custodian, Bill Grafmiller. The Grafmiller Greenhouse now stands on the grounds, holding the trays of dirt stuffed with seeds. The greenhouse has shelves that will hold 19 trays of plants, plus there is more room on the floor.

The kids had fun getting dirty and looking forward to their plants. Each class was divided into groups of eight that would work with parent volunteers in the sunshine.

“I love these days,” said Ktee Burget, a substitute teacher and a mother of a student at the school.

Lennick said the seeds should sprout in a matter of days. When the plants are larger, students will transplant them to bigger pots.

She added that students can visit the greenhouse to track the stages of growth or use the plants as inspiration in art class.

Although the greenhouse will be an educational tool, for the first-graders, it was a lot of fun.

“It’s fun to plant and get dirty,” said Kyler Bates. He hopes others want to plant their own seeds and have as much fun as he was having.

“Happy planting,” he said.