New greenhouse will provide the soil for Woodson’s sprouting students
Published 10:47 am Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Woodson Kindergarten Center’s Blue Duckling class took a break from listening to a birthday story Tuesday afternoon to go check out the new greenhouse in the center’s interior courtyard.
“Whoa,” several of the youngsters said as they walked in.
Teachers envision the 24-by-12-foot greenhouse as a key place for hands-on learning for the school’s science curriculum. Though it was empty Tuesday, it still provided a brief lesson for the students after they noticed the greenhouse was warmer than it was outside.
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“That’s what a greenhouse does; it keeps it warm so the plants can grow,” teacher Alisha Galle told her class.
Woodson staff, spouses and helpers spent about five hours erecting the greenhouse in the outdoor courtyard Saturday.
The idea for a greenhouse first sparked when Woodson staff discussed a new science curriculum.
“We just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, how nice would it be to have a space for us to implement all these science things,’” Galle said.
The greenhouse idea picked up steam last spring when Woodson was a finalist to receive one of two $20,000 grants or one of 15 $10,000 grants through Seeds of Change; however, the school did not receive any of the grants.
Still, other community groups stepped up. Woodson received funds and support from the Austin Public Education Foundation, Woodson PTC, the Kiwanis Club, Target and other businesses and organizations.
Now, they’re getting the greenhouse up and going in phases, and more organizations are coming forward to help.
With the structure and several curriculum items in place, teachers will now focus on ordering supplies for the greenhouse’s interior, like shelves and tables. Galle hopes to have that in place so classes can utilize the space by late September or early October.
“We’d love to be able to do pumpkin things in here: watch pumpkins decompose and talk about seeds,” she said.
Each teacher received a butterfly net to use in individual classrooms, but Galle said they may expand that in the greenhouse. It will also help classes as they dissect plants to learn about the parts. The teachers plan to grow seeds in the greenhouse, too. Classes also watch eggs hatch into chicks — something that could move to the greenhouse along with much more.
“We want to be able to just get lots of experiments going so that other classes who maybe aren’t doing that experiment can also learn from someone else that’s doing something,” Galle said.
For now, the garden will be shut down in the winter, but Galle and teachers hope to get heaters someday.
“This year is definitely a learning year,” she said. “See how it goes and then make changes as needed.”
An outdoor space for learning
Woodson has big plans for the future of the interior courtyard. Woodson teachers plan to work with landscaping and woodworking classes at Austin High School to beautify the courtyard and create outdoor seating where teachers can bring a class to learn outdoors.
They may even work with the art department to install murals and make the space more kid-friendly and inviting.
Galle said the courtyard is a unique space for Woodson, as it’s enclosed, which means they don’t have to worry about the children’s safety during school or about people accessing it after school hours.
With big goals, teachers are still looking for more partners to help out.
“We’re still actively pursuing different grants,” Galle said.
Woodson is working on a partnership with Mower County’s Statewide Health Improvement Program to receive some funding for supplies.
Galle hopes to get the community involved, too, as teachers would like to bring parents in as volunteers to help with maintenance.
“We want it to be something special to Woodson, because Woodson is so unique in itself being just a kindergarten,” Galle said.