Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Learning is about to get greener at Hixson High School.
The school recently received a $46,000 grant from federal agency Appalachian Regional Commission to help fund the construction of a new greenhouse on campus. With help from other community partners, the grant brings the total money raised for the project in the past year to more than $111,000, said agriculture education teacher Lee Friedlander.
“It’s not simply a greenhouse; what’s special about it is what’s going to happen inside it — hands-on, experimental, project-based learning,” he added. “We’ll use it to teach STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], but add on to this agriculture, entrepreneurship and leadership.”
The agriculture program at HHS is the only one of its kind in Hamilton County, said Friedlander, and the students already have use of a smaller hoop greenhouse and garden behind the school. The ag program as a whole was born in 2011 as a result of student feedback.
“Sometimes a student who struggles in the classroom, when you give them an authentic task to do they become your rock star,” Friedlander said.
Hixson’s ag students are excited about the new 2,100-square-foot greenhouse, he added. Some said they’ve been waiting for it for years.
“For me it’s a cool learning experience, not just for our school but for everyone in Hamilton County,” said junior Cambree Spurlock, explaining that the greenhouse could be used as an example for other schools that want to start a similar program. “You don’t realize how much you need to know this stuff until you’re in class.”
“It’s an eye opener,” senior Kevin Nguyen said of Hixson High’s ag program. “People think ag science is farming, but it’s much more than that.”
“It’s something we can apply to our lives,” agreed junior Nicholas Rodgers.
Friedlander said he hopes the new greenhouse, which is projected to be complete for the upcoming spring semester, can have applications for health science students during their nutrition section, for biology students when they study plants, and even for robotics students.
“I could talk for hours and hours,” said senior and HHS Future Farmers of America club president Emily Davis. “There is so much to learn and get involved in.”