Saint Andrews – The little greenhouse at Sir James Dunn Academy is full of healthy looking tomato plants, and in a few weeks, students will be heading to the local farmers’ market to sell them.
The greenhouse project was started last year and, thanks to a grant from Fundy Community Foundation, and other funding, the building was completed in February of this year. Students from NBCC Saint Andrews built the frame, and the SJDA students did the inside.
Teacher Seth Richardson’s entire Grade 10 broad based technology class is involved in the project in one way or another, said student Mary Cunningham, which encompasses all different aspects of technology.
This year, said student Raeghan O’Leary, they are focusing on growing lots of different types of tomatoes, as well as basil, because these are very resilient.
She said there have been a few struggles with some plants, but they often come back and, since some of the plants already have tiny tomatoes on them, they can obviously bear fruit.
“We are out here one hour and fifteen minutes every day, and there are also a couple of other students who help out on the weekends. The idea is to sell the plants.
“We started off with a 10 year plan, but we have changed that a little bit. We are hoping within five to 10 years to raise enough money to have solar panels, so we can get the greenhouse completely off the grid. It does use a bit of electricity right now.”
The project was started inside the school last year, and O’Leary said they probably grew about half the amount of plants they have propagated this year, and these were sold at the market, which started the funding for the greenhouse.
She said the plants, which they started in January, are so resilient they can be placed on the patio, and will bear fruit all summer. For her part, O’Leary said she would like to figure out how to grow raspberries in the greenhouse.
This year, the students have also tried their hand at grafting, with different types of apples. Richardson said they have propagated honey crisp apple trees, and the grafting has successfully taken.
He said the students are learning so much from this project, and are bringing the agricultural sector up to date and more efficient by using 21st century technology.
“We are integrating technology into the agricultural sector. That is what it’s all about. There is a lot of economic opportunity in the agricultural sector. If we can get them inspired to want to learn, we can maybe create more opportunities at the post secondary level.
“The kids are learning so much about mechanical engineering in this course. We are big proponents of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“We were able to use our 3D printer to design different moulds for different products we are using for rain gathering and for measuring cups so we don’t have to worry about them bursting. The students have literally engineered them and made the prototypes.
“It is so fascinating. We talk about the future, but I feel we have the intellectual ability, and talent, in our classrooms here and now to solve problems today.
“I think we underestimate our students and I don’t think we give them enough credit and enough opportunities. Let them create, design and make mistakes. They are excited to do it and they go home and continue working on it because they like it not because they have to.”
A rain collection system for the greenhouse was the students’ idea. In the future the plan is to connect the rain barrel to a computer and make sensors for each pot which will signal when the plants need to be watered.