Camilla Bundy, a student at Kenai Alternative High School, works with plants at Ridgeway Farm in Kenai during a botany class.
Students at Kenai Alternative High School had an opportunity to develop their green thumbs as they put botany lessons to good use in a commercial greenhouse.
“We started planting plants at the beginning of the rotation. It’s been interesting to watch. Now, some of those plants are starting to bloom. It’s fun when people want to buy the things you made and grew,” said Bridget Middaugh, a student at Kenai Alternative High School.
For the past seven weeks, Kenai Alternative students have been given the choice of staying in the classroom for a traditional lesson, or getting out of the classroom to apply some of their science lessons. Four days a week, they took a field trip to Ridgeway Farms on Strawberry Road in Kenai, where they got hands-on training in botany, as well as on-the-job training in the operation of a commercial greenhouse.
“We learned all about plants, what’s inside the stem and the roots. We learned about different kinds of foods we eat, and what they’re made of,” Middaugh said. “It was more fun seeing it grow rather than having it explained (in a classroom). It was hands-on.”
In addition to planting seeds and transplanting seedlings, students also did some dirty work, hauling soil and shoveling compost. In lab sessions, they looked at the structures of peas and carrots under microscopes.
Students planted a variety of plants, including marigolds, nasturtiums, poppies, sunflowers and peas. Many of those plantings are now arranged in hanging flower baskets.
The hands-on application was appealing part of the program for students who participated.
“I wouldn’t have done any work (out of a text book),” said Joe Boon, a student at the school.
“I’d rather do hands-on work, rather than working out of a book,” said fellow student Cody Espy.
The class was taught by Vickie Roney and Alison Larson. Roney commented that changes she saw in some students as they got out of the classroom and into the greenhouse were amazing. Attitudes improved as they got ready to head to Ridgeway Farms, and students who had trouble getting to school on time made sure they were there to catch the van.
“If you weren’t there on time, you got left,” said Amanda Taylor, another student who participated in the class.
Roney said not all students enjoyed the greenhouse work, but others loved it. She said she even heard one student say that working in a greenhouse was the only job he could see himself doing.
The experience also left students feeling pleased with the work they accomplished.
“We grew all the plants we planted into the (hanging baskets). I didn’t think we’d have that much in so little time,” Espy said.
“It was different. We never had a botany class. We never had anything like this. It was pretty cool.”
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