Long Beach Middle School’s new greenhouse has opened extraordinary opportunities for environmental education, hands-on learning and STEAM experiences, with many exciting initiatives in the works. The district formally unveiled the outdoor facility, located in the school’s courtyard, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 24.
Members of the Board of Education, administration and faculty, along with students, united for the celebration. After Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jennifer Gallagher cut the ribbon, attendees toured the greenhouse and students described the experiences that its launch has presented.
Eighth graders germinated seeds of their choice, which they maintain during their science periods, and sixth and seventh grades will do so over the next few weeks. The range of vegetation is vast and includes tomato, cucumber, green bean, pepper, squash and radish plants, along with a Venus flytrap and much more.
“It’s a great way for us to connect to nature, to really help students learn about sustainability, global awareness and our responsibility as citizens for that,” said Long Beach Middle School Principal Lorie Beard.
The vision for the greenhouse was introduced several years back by middle school administrators and PTA leaders who actually fundraised for and donated the greenhouse itself and growing supplies. Technology teacher Brian Pross has been instrumental in launching the greenhouse program this spring. Science teachers in grades 6-8 have had students conducting extensive research on yielding successful crops and tracking the temperature and humidity through a digital app that connects to a thermometer.
In addition to expanding students’ horticultural knowledge, the greenhouse fosters interdisciplinary learning. Technology students utilized their lessons in torque and angles when they assembled the planting tables, which feature wheels for mobility and galvanized fasteners to prevent rusting. The district hopes to incorporate robotics through programming that installation of exhaust fans will require.
“We’ve talked about all different levels of growing and experimentation across the board, so we are excited about that,” said Dr. Paul Romanelli, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. “This greenhouse is a start, we are going to keep innovating and putting things in place.”
This summer, under the supervision of Science Director Cristie Tursi, faculty members will participate in curriculum writing to expand integration of the greenhouse into core subject areas. Students will take the current season’s plants home to maintain, and the middle school is exploring farm-to-table opportunities and the possibility of donating produce that the future brings. The District hopes to expand the greenhouse program to our elementary STEM offerings with the purchase of “mini-greenhouses” for each elementary school.