Eye On KELOLAND: Growing And Learning

WAGNER, S.D. - It's harvest time for farmers and gardeners across KELOLAND. But at Wagner Community School, students are able to grow plants all year long, and not just ones you typically see in South Dakota.

At Wagner Community School, you won't just find a school on campus, but also this geodesic dome. Inside you find students tending to all their plants and animals. Samuel Cournoyer and Maske Horse Looking are out in the geodome daily.

"We come out here and pretty much maintain everything, sweep, pick up, we have things inside that need to come out here, we will bring them out here and put them in the beds," senior Samuel Cournoyer said.

"Feed the fish and turtles and clip what's dead and plant some new stuff," senior Maske Horse Looking said.

In here, you'll find a variety of plants, from typical South Dakota produce, to some more unusual plants for the upper Midwest.

"We have beets, tomatoes, flowers, peppers, papaya, eggplant, birds, doves, snake plants, birds of paradise and lemons and orange trees," Horse Looking said.

"It's cool to see how plants grow and how you can grow them year round in a green house, if you're not used to it, it's going to be different but it's actually nice to see that we can grow things not from South Dakota here," Cournoyer said.

The geodome place is used by the entire school, from pre-k all the way to high school.

"Our kids grow any kind of vegetables that they want to all year round, they make all sorts of fun dishes, we've had kids make fresh lemonade from our lemon trees, we grow what the kids want," high school science/outdoor science coordinator, Carrie Tucek said.

The group of 6th graders spends time in the geodome weekly. Madison Robertson is one of them hard at work.

"We are planting the spider web plants to make them grow so we can have them in our classroom and we are harvesting sunflower seeds so we can eat them," 6th grader Madison Robertson said.

Getting them out of the classroom and into nature.

"I've always liked hands-on things and it's just better to do hands on things because it gets your brain moving and learning a lot better than sitting in a classroom and reading a textbook," Robertson said.

The geodome took shape about four years ago, all thanks to students.

"Our middle school students actually asked the school board to build it, so this is all kid driven, the kids asked for it, the kids built it, the kids built the insides of it, and the kids take care of it," Tucek said.

Along with the geodome, there's also an aquaponics system in the school.

"The aquaponics is a combination of growing plants and raising fish and the life cycle of both depend on each other," teacher Megan Fischer said.

That's what this group of students are working on.

"Each day we come down to the aquaponics we break into groups and we have groups that examine the chemicals in the water, we have chemicals that need to be tested regularly to make sure the fish and plants are doing well," Fischer said.

Plus, these students get the hands-on learning experience to see their plants grow from beginning to end. 

"After a few weeks they get bigger and bigger and it's crazy how fast they grow," Cournoyer said.

"My favorite part is getting to come outside for a little bit and breathe some fresh air, feed the fish and see and feed the turtles and see what I planted, grow and grow more everyday," Horse Looking said.

After the fruits and vegetables grown in the geodome are harvested, the students bring them to the cafeteria to eat during lunch and also give some of it to the community. 

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