In February, students at Laing Middle School began construction of numerous greenhouses on their campus as part of the school's unique approach to integrating science, technology, engineering and math.
Laing STEM Director Mel Goodwin and fellow teachers organized sixth-graders to begin constructing the nine greenhouses.
Each greenhouse is the result of more than four months work in sixth-grade social studies, science, English language arts, and mathematics classes.
Last year's sixth-graders faced the issues of designing a structure to withstand wind, ultimately coming up with a geodesic dome.
This year's kids went to work building them.
“They all look alike,” said Goodwin, “because the students used the basic requirements given to them and studied what didn't work last year. They conversed on the design and met the finance, ease of construction, size and sturdiness criteria with this end result.”
They also had to budget, measure, choose plants that would grow in this climate, and develop a plan and present it.
Greenhouse design and construction is one of several projects that are part of Laing's “Whole School” STEM initiative that encourages student involvement with a wide variety of tools from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Key objectives of the initiative are to improve academic performance as well as encourage potential student interest in STEM professions. Teachers are able to give immediate purpose to their lessons by weaving normal curriculum content into the research, planning and design tasks involved with the greenhouse project. As a result, most students are highly engaged in their lessons because of their personal involvement with the greenhouses they are creating.
The irrigation systems designed by the student could not be dependant on power and are drip systems run on batteries recharged by solar panels.
Social Studies teacher Christine Lloyd said that one way the project was incorporated into her class was with each new unit, students examined cultures, such as the Mayans and their environment. They determined what was difficult about their environments and then studied how those cultures applied solutions.
“They figured the problems out (in regards to the greenhouses), found the solutions and then presented that information. They had real ownership in this entire process,” Lloyd said.
Her student Michael Lewandowski said he really enjoyed the process. “My favorite part was getting together as a class and making the greenhouse out of everyday things from the bottom up.”
Maquis Whitten was impressed that the whole class could come together to complete such a big project. “We built this all by ourselves from the ground up. It was hard at first, but look what we accomplished.”
English, Language Arts teacher Annie McCormick's class researched the plants that would grow in the greenhouses as well as the design, ventilation and irrigation.
“It was exciting for them because they actually got to build the very greenhouse they presented to the architectual review board panel. They poked holes in their ideas, sent them back to the drawing board at times and made them rethink the process,” she explained.
McCormick said that each student had a job and it worked like clockwork to the point where she could truly sit back and watch the kids in motion.
Student Tyrese Williams was most surprised by the fact that kids could build such a structure all by themselves with only one parent supervising.
He's pleased that the effort will results in plants for the community and was very interested in learning about irrigation and how that helps a plant to grow.
Fellow classmate Katherine Schmidt said, “It was a great opportunity to have fun with friends while being educated. It was a really cool idea and I haven't heard of other schools doing this,” she said.
“The hardest part so far was actually building the structure correctly so it doesn't mess up the whole project.”
At this point, plants are being put into growing containers and hooked up to the irrigation systems so that growth can be monitored.
The Moultrie News will be following the progress of the nine teams throughout the year. Read more online at www.moultrienews.com and view photo galleries from the students' work.