NORTH PROVIDENCE — Students at Birchwood Middle School are getting hands-on training in the school’s new greenhouse, developing complex hydroponic systems and watching closely to see which growing methods work best.
They showed off the space at an official groundbreaking ceremony in Birchwood on Wednesday, June 8, which culminated several years of planning, funding and building the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) greenhouse. ).
Mayor Charles Lombardi thanked everyone for making the greenhouse a reality and providing another educational opportunity for students in North Providence.
“It’s a first,” he joked. “I want to see if I can come back and buy some tomatoes.”
He was able to leave with tomato and basil plants.
The journey to build a greenhouse in Birchwood began when Agro-STEAM teacher Katharine Bowers applied and won a $41,795 grant from the Champlin Foundation to fund the project.
Dino Jacavone, owner of Jacavone Construction Corp. and Jacavone Garden Center in Johnston, volunteered to build a structure for free, allowing the school to add “all the bells and whistles,” principal Brian Gilmore said at the groundbreaking. school in June 2019.
The pandemic put a stumbling block on their plans and delayed construction, but the STEAM greenhouse is now fully functional. In addition to building services, plants were donated to the greenhouse. The city provides water and heating.
“The finished product was well worth the wait. It was definitely a long process, but we had a lot of help to be able to have our greenhouse here today,” said Gilmore, thanking Bowers, Champlin, Jacavone and Robert D’Angelo for their time and resources.
Gilmore said it’s more than a greenhouse, but a learning space where students can get their hands dirty and get first-hand experience. They are already growing a variety of plants and vegetables using different methods, calculating their nutrient levels and determining their viability.
They plan to donate vegetables to local food banks. This effort, Gilmore said, complements Birchwood’s student-run program to reduce food waste. The students sorted through discarded cafeteria items and calculated their environmental footprint at the end of each month.
Patricia Ousi, a Grade 7 student who was day director at last Wednesday’s launch event, said she’s ‘always smiling’ in her STEAM class, where they’re learning about the benefits plants can bring. .
“It was such a fun time in that class, and it was great to get hands-on experience,” she said.
Representatives from Get Food Smart RI and the RI Department of Environmental Management and the RI Schools Recycling Club praised Birchwood for its efforts to reduce food waste.
Since last September, they have diverted approximately 9,534 pounds of organic waste from the landfill and donated over 800 pounds of additional food to a local food pantry.