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August 21, 2014

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Elementary school greenhouse teaches more than basics

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Hyun James Kim / Special to the Home News

Kayla Eason, center, laughs while watching Tommy Orluske, left, water plants inside the Frank Lamping Elementary School greenhouse.

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Mackinzie Howel looks for flowers to prune inside Frank Lamping Elementary School's greenhouse. Students at Lamping get horticulture experience and science know-how from the work.

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Each spring, Frank Lamping Elementary School students grow flowers and plants inside the school's greenhouse. The flowers are then sold to raise money for horticulture supplies.

After not seeing their pansies since they were planted, students at Frank Lamping Elementary School were excited to enter their greenhouse Friday to prune and fertilize the flowers.

Since its completion at the end of last school year, the greenhouse has been more useful than teachers expected it to be.

The original intention was to have the fourth graders grow plants, which would then be sold.

However, the scope has been far broader, science director Christa May said.

"We've been able to incorporate most all of the grades," she said.

Whether it's a lesson in survival of the fittest, with up to 25 bean trees fighting for space, a lesson on solar energy, or taking advantage of plants that have died to teach the difference between live and dead root systems, the greenhouse has been well used, she said.

In the greenhouse now are pansies, the second batch planted so far. The first were sold to members of the community before winter break. Some of the second batch has withered, so it's possible the students may start over, replanting for a springtime sale, May said.

Donations and a partnership with Speedee Mart paid for the $52,000 greenhouse. Now, the students are learning not only about planting, but also economics through selling the plants.

They initially took out a loan for $300 to pay for seeds and supplies, then had to work to pay it back. Being in debt was tough for some of the students, Principal Michael O'Dowd said. They came back and sold the flowers, though, netting $600, which allowed them to pay back the loan and the interest that had accrued.

In fifth grade, the money follows those students, who are taught about the process of investing.

"We were originally going to really invest the money, but now with the economy we've decided to just pretend," O'Dowd said. "It would be devastating to lose it all."

At the end of the school year, the money earned will pay for the end-of-the-year graduation and celebration, he said.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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