AThe greenhouse near Riverside High School, which has been dormant for more than a decade, is having new life breathed into it thanks to a capital levy approved by voters in 2018.
The building has been unused for at least 15 years, said Riverside School District Superintendent Ken Russell. An effort to replace broken panels so the building can be used again is underway and should be complete in January.
“The infrastructure is really solid,” he said. “It’s got great bones. Our goal is to reinstate and reinvigorate the greenhouse. We anticipate it’s going to be a multi-use facility.”
The greenhouse will be used by students from the district’s two elementary schools, middle school and high school. “We can grow native plants for our forest renewal program,” Russell said. “That’s one of the ideas we have for the greenhouse.”
The greenhouse is also perfect for students at Riverside Achievement Center, the district’s alternative high school, Russell said. “We do some project-based learning in that program,” he said.
The district has a 186-acre school campus on Highway 2 at Deer Park Milan Road that includes 97 acres of forest land. Recently the district completed a thinning project to improve the health of the forest and reduce fire danger. Drought and Western Pine Beetles had affected the health of some of the trees and many of them were very small and tightly clustered together.
The district is currently working with students in Washington State University’s forestry program to create a forest renewal program that will include planting native plants, Russell said.
The greenhouse, forest and a second, smaller greenhouse at Chattaroy Elementary School are allowing the district to bring nature into the classroom. The district partnered with the Pacific Education Institute to train 20 teachers on how to integrate the forest into their classrooms.
Elementary students have visited the forest to journal about nature, Russell said. A community college class visited to do GPS work. “We’ve actually done some social-emotional learning in the forest,” he said. “We use nature as a relaxation strategy.”
Russell said the greenhouse and the forest have something to offer every grade level. “We feel like there’s some units of study our elementary students can do,” he said.
And there’s much more to come. There are plans underway to add agriculture science classes, including forestry, plant science and agricultural biology. Russell said the details on what new classes will be offered should be firmed up in the spring.
“We haven’t worked out all the details,” he said.
The district also wants to jump start a Future Farmers of America program to get students further involved in the outdoors and nature.
Russell said there’s just a tremendous benefit to having a large forest right on their doorstep. It provides an excellent way to teach students how the nature that surrounds them can impact their lives.
“We love it,” he said. “Obviously we value the experiential learning that comes from that. The forest management plan is a learning opportunity in and of itself.”
The greenhouse should be fully up and running by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, Russell said. He looks forward to the opportunities it will bring to students.
“We’re not just learning out of a textbook,” he said. “We’re learning from the community around us.”
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