With help from parents, teachers, master gardeners and a greenhouse supervisor, on Saturday Animas Valley Elementary School built the initial structure of the schools first greenhouse.
Plans for a greenhouse began when the school was awarded $5,000 last year for being recognized as a Healthy School Champion by the Colorado Department of Education.
As the school began research into the safety and design requirements of a classroom-size greenhouse, though, the costs began to add up. The final cost came to about $20,000, said Chris Isgar, the schools nurse and a self-proclaimed garden enthusiast who has been involved with the project since it began.
School fundraisers made up the difference and bought the greenhouse from Pagosa Springs-based Growing Spaces. The structure is dome-shaped and is 22 feet in diameter. The clear panels are made of polycarbonate, an insulated form of plastic, and the design traps enough heat for plants to grow without a heat source.
The greenhouse is a continuation of the outside gardens the school has had for three years, Isgar said. It complements the new health curriculum the school is piloting this year and fits nicely with science curriculum at the elementary level, she said. The hands-on activities associated with the greenhouse also will allow students to take a break from classroom learning.
Escalante Middle School is the only other school in Durango School District that has a greenhouse, said Marty Kay Hutton, with 9-Rs communications office. Escalante started a greenhouse project in 2007 and began teaching gardening classes two years ago, said Sharron Orr, the schools gardening teacher. The class now produces food for different classes and the cafeteria. In the summer, Orr donates produce to Manna Soup Kitchen.
The learning experience in the greenhouse and garden touches both science and our stomachs, Orr said. Students get an understanding of the cycle of food and healthy eating, she said.
After Animas Valleys outside dome is built, the school will spend the next several months designing and installing plant beds. The plan is for a grand opening in the spring, Principal Lisa Schuba said.