SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Now that it’s officially spring, you may be anxious to start heading into the garden to lay the groundwork for this year’s plants and flowers. But the cold and snow are putting off any yard work for the time being. However, some Sioux Falls high school students have spent much of this school year with their green thumbs planted firmly in the soil. Their new greenhouse is helping fill a need in the local food desert.
Working with plants is the ultimate stem education.
“You just gotta water them thoroughly, just pay attention,” Sioux Falls Christian senior Ellie Lounsbery said.
These Sioux Falls Christian High School students have been raising a bumper crop of plants, flowers and produce from small seedlings to fully-grown inside their new greenhouse.
“This greenhouse provides the great ideal condition for how plants can grow,” Sioux Falls Christian senior Jahaeim Reuer said.
The school built the greenhouse in keeping with their faith-based educational mission.
“There’s a lot of language in the Bible that talks about agriculture and how we are to grow and being soil that’s fertile and ready for seeds and so it’s helpful for our students to see what that literally looks like in action,” Sioux Falls Christian High School Principal Jeremy Van Nieuwenhuyzen said.
A family donated a greenhouse that was delivered to the school grounds last year.
“It’s a beautiful building, but it definitely isn’t large enough to meet all of our needs. So in addition to that, we built on the glass space that you see here,” Van Nieuwenhuyzen said.
Supply chain bottlenecks involving the glass panels delayed completion of the project until the holiday season. The greenhouse also features climate-controlled technology for optimal growing conditions.
“So, if it does get too hot, there’s sensors that detect it’s hot and are going to open-up vents to allow it to cool it down,” plant science teacher Jeremy Roberts said.
The glass panels created their own greenhouse effect. Temperatures inside were in the comfortable seventy-degree range even during the subzero winter.
“The sun comes in here, it can get a little steamy, that’s for sure,” Reuer said.
The students admit to being very green when they first stepped into the greenhouse.
“I was scared of plants. I wasn’t able to keep them alive very long,” Lounsbery said.
But now they’re embracing homework.
“I took a bunch of plants home and I have my own little plant spot in my house now,” Lounsbery said.
The produce that the students have been growing in the greenhouse will soon be ready for harvest. Then, they’ll donate the produce to the Sioux Falls discount grocery stores, Fair Market.
“So we’re trying to impact our community in places that didn’t have access to fruits and vegetables before, we’re going to be able to do that for them,” Roberts said.
“We find that it is our job as well to stay educated and also use what we have to bless our community as well,” Reuer said.
The school has big plans for their greenhouse. They’ll be holding classes here for elementary students and are looking at offering college-level horticulture courses. Working the soil is also cultivating a desire to give back to the community among these young plant scientists.
“I think our students just need to always be thinking about how can what I’m doing impact others in a positive way,” Van Nieuwenhuyzen said.
The students are also growing plants inside their greenhouse that will be sold at their annual plant sale fundraiser coming up in May.