In Cooper Landing, learning is hands on: Students can see, hear, smell, touch and taste what they know

Posted: Monday, May 09, 2011

When learning is hands on, it helps the brain hang on to information. The more senses involved in an experience, the more of an impact it will have on young minds.

Building a greenhouse at Cooper Landing School this spring afforded the fertile ground for just that sort of deep-rooted learning, where students can see, hear, smell, touch and taste the fruits of their labor.

"It's a lifelong learning thing," said Cooper Landing teacher Tommy Gossard. "This is not something they're going to read in a book and forget. If it's something you can do and enjoy and do into adulthood, it's good for everybody."

Through the help of the Cooper Landing Community Club, the school purchased a greenhouse kit and began the project in April.

Twelve students from the area and adult volunteers have been pitching in on the construction phase.

"We had all the kids come out and -- safety first -- we had helmets and gloves and goggles for them. Then we practiced drilling holes with cordless drills and driving nails in scrap pieces of wood," Gossard said.

Once the wood frame was complete, Gossard started working on affixing Lexan polycarbonate sheets, with students holding, handing and helping in general.

"It's been raining and that's been slowing us down, but every day at recess we put up a sheet of Lexan, that's our goal," Gossard said.

The greenhouse should be complete soon and ready for students to transfer the plant starts they've been nurturing inside, including tomatoes, lettuce, corn and peppers. Gossard consulted gardeners in the community for ideas of what to grow, and ended up with plant starts, as well.

"Cooper Landing is filled with volunteers. People volunteer for everything, and the school is a vital part of this community.

People do not want anything to happen to it, so they will come out and help and do things whenever we need it. There's never a short supply," he said.

Students have already committed to visiting the greenhouse throughout the summer to water and check the plants. Come fall, they'll be ready to harvest.

"Educationally, they're learning about helping with the environment, being able to grow things locally and to learn that you can do things like that," Gossard said. "We had a big Earth Day Fair with students learning about the environment and how to reduce and reuse things. They learn where things come from, and it provides an opportunity to grow their own food and eat it."

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