Students And Community Relationships Blossom In FJ Greenhouse Experience

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Learning can take place in all sorts of different places – a greenhouse is one of them.

For seven years, the budding greenhouse at Mattawa’s F.J. McElligott Secondary School has provided students with various horticultural and life skills.

“I really liked working in F.J.’s Greenhouse because we were outside and got to do hands-on work. I learned about soil, plants and how much everyone loves the greenhouse. I would like to do it again next year,” said Nic Guenette, a Grade 10 student.

The 1,300 square foot greenhouse was donated to the school in 2014 by local resident Laura Ross. Ross, along with her family utilized the greenhouse for decades before looking to pass it on.

Each year, students from various classes participate in the planting of plugs and seeds, nearly 28,000 of which were planted by students this year. In addition to planting, students also participate in daily deadheading, watering, basket creation and general maintenance of the plants, which are sold. Students learn about how plants are nurtured for maximum growth, the importance of soil properties, proper watering schedules, the value of sunlight to growth and about the business aspects of owning a greenhouse.

Sales from the greenhouse go towards helping F.J. students pay for class trips, school events and sports. Proceeds also help with beautifying the front of the school, maintaining and updating the greenhouse, and an annual scholarship for F.J. Grade 12 grads: FJ’s Blooming Greenhouse Scholarship.

Over the years, there have been numerous classes participate in the planting and maintenance of the plants. Some of these include Essential Science, Special Education, Learning Strategies, and Green Industries.

This year, there was a new addition – a Retail and Marketing class – which has been working on a logo and poster design to support sales.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, changes had to be made. A customer limit, mandatory mask wearing for all volunteers, staff and customers, frequent hand sanitizing, creation of a one-way loop for customers to maintain social distancing and plexiglass at the cash register.

During the opening weekend, which began on May 7, sales blossomed with nearly half of product sold.

“It was great to be back in the greenhouse after missing a year due to COVID and we were overwhelmed with the support we received from our customers on our opening weekend,” said teacher Martha Goodfellow. “Our students worked hard to ensure that all of our seedlings were planted before Spring Break which meant planting on average 4,500 per day. This was an amazing feat for students that were completely new to the process, and I was very proud of them.”

Fellow teacher, Judy Dupuis expressed her gratitude for the community support that has been shown over the years and especially this year.

“We had a great opening to the greenhouse and the support of the community has been amazing. The customers have been so pleased with the ability to shop local and support the school at the same time.”

While supplies last, the greenhouse will be open until June 1, 2021. For days and hours of operation, head to Facebook and look for FJs-Blooming-Greenhouse.

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