AHA Students Build Greenhouse
November 25, 2014
Over this past weekend at the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, over 100 students, staff and volunteers from Home Depot in North Bergen joined forces to construct an 8 X 16 foot greenhouse at the school’s campus. AHA Science Department Chairperson Nancy Brizzolara, who spearheaded this ambitious effort, welcomed the volunteers and thanked them for braving the cold and giving up their busy Saturday to help out.” I applaud you all for the choice you made to come today to join our “STREAM TEAM” as we kick off the building of this greenhouse.” She thanked the student volunteers in particular: “Project Greenhouse is your project. You are the builders, the installers, the farmers, researchers and contributors to the food banks and your contagious enthusiasm has spread through the community.”
The purpose of Project Greenhouse is to build a functional greenhouse, power it with solar panels, plant seeds that will grow to seedlings that can be transplanted to a large garden, and harvest the crops for donation to local food banks. Students planned and designed the greenhouse, complete with solar panels for power, storage areas, a self-watering system, and a fence. The completed greenhouse is now located on the campus directly behind the science classrooms. Students have been empowered in the process from the beginning, gaining experience in budgeting, safety, planning and design, construction, accessorizing, planting, harvesting, and disbursing products. Project Greenhouse will afford students with a hands-on opportunity to carry out cross-curricular studies in biology, environmental science, physics, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Students will explore not only the mutual interaction among these fields but will be challenged to consider the moral and humanistic implications presented by scientific inquiry as well. They will continue to handle the bulk of the work, including preparing the field, planting the seedlings, caring for the plants, harvesting the crops, and disbursing produce to local food banks. A team of adult moderators and teachers will be available to them for guidance.
Mrs. Brizzolara started the day’s build by dividing the students into five construction teams, each with its own set of tasks. She warned them that there would likely be unforeseen challenges along the way; and they didn’t take long to present themselves. The base on which the greenhouse sits took longer than anticipated to prepare since the area needed to be leveled and that took more time than expected. The five team leaders got together and decided that rather than wait for the base to be completed before attaching the framed sections, each group would finish its section by putting the components together in a nearby area, about twenty feet away from the base. Then, once the base was complete, they carried the assembled frames over to it and finished the job. Mrs. Brizzolara marveled at their teamwork and determination: “They were supportive, respectful, and positive throughout the entire day! Nothing was insurmountable, and everything had a solution!”
Principal Jennifer Moran emphasized that Holy Angels believes in what she called “citizen science with a moral imperative.” She summed up the goals for Project Greenhouse as follows: “This endeavor will not only produce students with hands on engineering and building experience but it will also teach our students to share that bounty with others.” She noted that by next Thanksgiving, the Greenhouse harvest will be made available to local food banks, and added, “Our crops will not be only rooted in dirt, but in faith as well.” AHA recently expanded its STEM program to encompass six disciplines of study: Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Mathematics; Project Greenhouse is a part of this new STREAM program.
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