Construction on a passive solar greenhouse at Normandeau School starts Oct. 20 to provide a unique classroom where students can grow and learn.
Lindsay Henley, pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 teacher, said the greenhouse will be the only one of its kind in central Alberta.
It also has the potential to change the greenhouse industry in Alberta through applied research in conjunction with SAIT Green Building Technologies.
Scott Builders is using a 3D printer to prefabricate parts for the structure and it should be built by Dec. 14. Tubes in the ground will use energy from the solar panels to heat the building.
“We’re hoping this will ignite the passion in some of these kids. They have absolutely no idea what plants look like, starting from a seedling all the way to when it’s ready to harvest,” Henley said about the vegetables students see in grocery stores.
She said once kids learn how easy it is to garden, they can grow their own vegetables at home and teach their families.
Students from kindergarten to Grade 8 will learn about practical horticultural skills in a hands-on environment, and the curriculum will also integrate math, science, and language arts.
Henley said she is already teaching a horticulture class for the elementary students in preparation for the greenhouse, and hopefully students from Ecole Secondaire Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive School will use the greenhouse to research solar energy and science projects.
“We want to have the kids in there asap because that’s the whole point of this greenhouse.”
She said the greenhouse has been her passion project. She worked on the Little Green Thumbs program for elementary students with ReThink Red Deer, and the number of garden boxes in her classroom has been multiplying.
Planning for the project started before COVID which delayed access to materials to build the greenhouse.
As the foods teacher at Normandeau School, Henley would also like to see some of the crops grown in the greenhouse used in that class, extras sent home with students to help families in need, and the greenhouse opened up to the community after school.
She said the school is still looking for a sponsor to furnish the greenhouse with chairs, tables, tools and materials to get the greenhouse classroom ready for students.
“We’re very, very excited. Our motto is ‘Thank you for coming to grow with us,’” Henley said.
The greenhouse is a project of the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools and partners include Red Deer Public Schools, Central Alberta Coop, SAIT, Scott Builders, ZS2 Technologies Ltd., ReThink Red Deer, Farm Credit Canada, Nutrien, Red Deer & District Community Foundation, Rotary Club of Red Deer, Cash Casino, Cilantro and Chive, and donations from others.