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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 31 2013

Love of science sprouts in Hope school greenhouse

HOPE, N.D. - A glass greenhouse at Hope High School has not only provided fresh perspectives on learning this year, but fresh vegetables for students, and plants for the community.

For some students, science is now a subject to look forward to.

“I’d say the best part about the greenhouse is it makes science fun. Up until now, I wasn’t a fan of science,” sophomore Macey Erickson said.

“We’ve done so many experiments with plants. It’s nuts to see how all the plants grow,” she said.

Classmate Holly Johnson said experiments in the greenhouse breathe life into dry textbooks.

“It makes it easier to understand. It’s real,” Johnson said. “You can see the plants grow; you can see the genetics, even if you have to wait awhile.”

The greenhouse was built in January as part of a project that added a science classroom and upgraded another, science teacher Jeff Hovde said.

The greenhouse is 14 feet by 24 feet and cost $65,000. Hovde said the Hope-Page School Board’s decision to support the project has been money well spent.

Life sciences, biology and ecology students work in the greenhouse for their studies, but students in other science classes view the chance to get their hands dirty as a treat, Hovde said.

Vegetables dominate in the greenhouse, but there are also marigolds and other decorative plants.

Hovde said students get a first-hand look at the structures of the plants. They’ve done growth experiments with differing fertilizers, and worked with an agronomist on soil sampling and learning what a plant’s needs are from its condition.

“Corn, soybeans, navy beans. Real diverse stuff,” Hovde said. “They (the students) love it. They absolutely love it.”

Hovde said he wants to do artificial selection and cross-breeding of plants, perhaps starting with students in seventh grade, and have them work through a project into their junior year.

“They can see that research isn’t a one-hour lab on Friday. It can take years,” Hovde said.

Another plus: The greenhouse has produced enough lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers to serve students and staff at lunch, and for family and consumer science classes, Hovde said.

“They say it tastes pretty good. … It’s just cool to know that this lettuce wasn’t from a factory. It’s from our greenhouse,” Erickson said. “The Hope High School made this lettuce and these cucumbers. Yeah, it’s cool.”

The students are now selling plants they’ve grown, Hovde said. Sales will go through Father’s Day, with proceeds going into a science program fund.

Those sales provide a community service, too, Hovde said, as a replacement for a greenhouse that had closed in town.

The greenhouse has also been an attitude adjustment oasis in the middle of the recent long winter, Hovde said.

Students would come to class and wonder at the blossoms on a hibiscus as snow piled up outside.

“I really saw a difference in attitude,” Hovde said. “Even the teachers like to stand in the greenhouse when they get the winter blues.”

Have an idea?

The Farmers’ Forum welcomes submissions for possible feature stories. Send your ideas to: Farmers’ Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107 or by email to julku@forumcomm.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583