Third grade teacher Beth Weisse is always on the lookout for grants she can use to enhance the learning of the students in her classroom at Chattaroy Elementary School. She recently scored a big one, a $2,000 check from Northwest Farm Credit Services to purchase a greenhouse.
“We are a small, rural school,” Weisse said. “I thought this would be a great way to get my kids outdoors and get hands on learning.”
Her students are learning about life cycles this year, and a greenhouse will fit nicely into that, Weisse said. “This is just a great way to get them doing it,” she said.
She said the Riverside School District just finished updating its math and reading curriculum, and the science curriculum is next. The district has updated its science standards to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas and careers, and Weisse said she hopes the greenhouse will help her boost the old science curriculum to better match the new standards.
Weisse is wasting no time in getting the greenhouse up and running. “I actually have already purchased one,” she said.
She and her principal have picked out a spot for it, a grassy area near the breezeway connecting the two parts of the school.
“We picked an area where the sprinkler system hits so we won’t have to worry about watering,” she said.
She has other improvements in mind for the area, including possibly having a mural painted on an old wall. She’d also like to get benches and picnic tables donated to help turn the spot into an outdoor gathering area.
The greenhouse isn’t large, spanning 8 feet by 9 feet. “It’s not too big, but not teeny tiny,” she said.
Weisse said a family member works for a seed company, and she’s hoping she can get seeds donated to the school. “I want to do vegetables so we can tie in nutrition as well,” she said.
She’s a Washington State University graduate and plans to ask her contacts at the school to bring their knowledge of agriculture to her classroom.
“I’m going to have a lot of people come in and do guest speaking,” she said.
She said she wants the children to be able to eat what they grow, whether that’s by making salsa or snacking on tomatoes fresh off the vine.
Weisse may have applied for the grant, but it won’t just benefit her students. She plans to make it available to all the 250 students at Chattaroy Elementary. Her students already work with a kindergarten classroom as reading buddies, and the new greenhouse will add to that, she said.
“I can definitely see us partnering with the kindergartners,” she said.
Students will start their plants in the greenhouse, then move them to keyhole planters when they get bigger. Weisse said she also wants to have a compost bin to create fertilizer for the plants. The students will be in charge of caring for the plants as they grow.
It’s unusual for an elementary school to have a greenhouse, which are much more common at high schools, Weisse said. “That makes us unique,” she said.
She said she would like to organize some sort of school ceremony to mark the new addition to the elementary school.
“I’d like to have a little something, just to celebrate that it’s here,” she said.
Weisse is hoping to be able to have the first seeds planted in the spring and is looking forward to the learning students will be able to do inside the greenhouse.
“There’s so many things we can do with it,” she said. “It’s going to be really, really exciting.”
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