Parley’s Park Elementary School to build a greenhouse | ParkRecord.com

Parley’s Park Elementary School to build a greenhouse

Tricia Perkins knows how hard it can be to keep kindergarteners' attention while teaching. So, the Parley's Park Elementary School teacher decided to find a more interactive teaching method.

What started as an idea to have small gardening boxes for her students evolved into a greenhouse that could be constructed as early as this month. The greenhouse will be available for use for all students at the school.

Perkins said that the idea stemmed from wanting to give students an opportunity to have hands-on learning experiences in order to hold, touch and manipulate plants rather than learning about them through books or videos. She also wanted to teach students about where food comes from and the science behind the life cycle.

"A greenhouse could bring the whole school together with that and hit on a lot of the standards across the grades," she said.

Perkins originally thought about purchasing small garden beds, but soon realized it would be hard to teach gardening during the winter months. So, she applied for a grant to make a greenhouse in 2016. After being denied because of policies about building structures on school property, she decided to find another way.

A parent of one of her students, Courtney Caplan, heard about the idea and happened to be the president of the board for the nonprofit EATS Park City, which provides healthy food to students in Park City and has gardens at various schools.

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Caplan immediately agreed to help.

The nonprofit donated its time and support for Perkins as it helped her plan the structure and find funding for the project. The planned 12-by-16-foot structure will sit on a piece of cement, which has already been laid out on the backside of the school. Depending on weather and curriculum plans for teachers, the structure could be erected in a month, Caplan said.

The nonprofit EATS also plans to offer lesson plans and other resources for teachers once the structure is complete.

The greenhouse is being funded by a combined effort of the Parley's Park parent-teacher association, the Park City School District and private donors, Perkins said.

David Gomez, principal of the school, said that he is excited at the prospect of the diverse lessons from the greenhouse.

"They learn not just about how things grow, but their responsibility in growing is a huge part of it too," he said. "We can branch off in so many different ways."

There is the possibility of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) application as well. Gomez said that students might design a watering mechanism or discuss plans for heating it with solar panels.

Plus he said that he loves the idea of providing experiences for students that they normally would not have.

For Perkins, she said that one of her favorite benefits is that the greenhouse will allow the students to spend class time outdoors during the middle of the school day.

"The more you engage somebody in learning, the more they actually learn," she said. "It's a natural movement. Instead of me being like, 'OK, head, shoulders, knees and toes,' they are digging in the dirt. It's not an artificial movement I have to come up on my own."

Perkins is also hopeful that students who learn about growing can then take the information home to their families with confidence to grow plants at home. As someone who is fearful of growing plants herself, she is excited to learn how to care for plants in a mountain climate alongside her students.

Caplan said that the children might be more apt to eat the food they grow, too, which is beneficial when teaching about eating healthy foods.

"When kids are involved in something from start to finish and watching a plant grow before their very eyes, they take ownership and pride in the process," she said. "I'm excited for the myriad of options at the school."