Growing their education

A greenhouse will become a new classroom at St. John XXIII School in Port where students will learn invaluable hands-on lessons while growing nutritious food

St. John XXIII School Principal Kristine Klein stood in the space that will become an integral part of the school’s science, technology, engineering and math curriculum for students of all ages. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Students at St. John XXIII School in Port Washington have a new way to grow their education — literally.

Members of the St. John XXIII Men’s Society are completing work on a greenhouse to be used in the school’s science, technology, engineering and math curriculum.

The greenhouse — funded by a $34,000 grant from the Bruce Krier Foundation supplemented by a $10,000 Gifts grant from the Milwaukee Archdiocese and $1,000 Victor Noll Sisters grant — is the cornerstone of the school’s Love Grows project and will be used by students in all grades, Principal Kristine Klein said.

“We’re very excited about this,” Klein said. “The kids are, too. They can look out the windows of their classrooms and see the progress.”

The greenhouse, which is on the east side of the school, is expected to be up and running this winter, she added.

And by spring, Klein said, fresh vegetables are likely to be springing up, teaching students lessons they can carry throughout their lives — from how to grow their own food to how to care for the earth.

It’s a unique opportunity, she said, noting not many schools have a hothouse.

“I think we’re looking to always stay at the forefront of what’s important for their education,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to be innovative, creative, and find something that sets us apart.”

The greenhouse offers plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning — not just about food production but also the environment and sustainability — Klein said, and that’s important for students.

“The environment is so crucial, and our students will have hand hands-on opportunities to learn about it.”

Hands-on learning “is unparalleled. This type of learning lasts a lifetime.”

The greenhouse will be used by all students, from pre-kindergarten to eighth-graders, teaching everything from botany to sustainability, Klein said.

There could be lessons in composting, in how to select the right crops to plant and in soil health.

“I see this integrating with math and literacy, social studies,” Klein said, noting that many books today have themes that reflect the environment. “Everyone from little kids to teenagers can do research.”

Although the curriculum is still being worked out by the school staff, Klein said it has sparked a wide range of discussions already.

“I think it’s going to be an ongoing discussion,” she said, adding student input will also be important in those talks.

As the greenhouse gets up and running, students will likely start their work by growing vegetables from seed and nurturing them throughout the winter, Klein said.

“By spring, late spring, we could have a mini farmers market growing in there,” she said.

There is some talk of being able to donate fresh produce to the Port Food Pantry, she said, and to use the vegetables in school lunches.

“We talk a lot about using our talents to help each other,” Klein said. “What better lesson?”

Students may be able to take some vegetables home with them, Klein said, and a farm-to-table dinner for six is expected to be an auction item during the Key Event, the school’s annual fundraiser, she said.

“I think the sky’s the limit in what we can do,” Klein said.

The rewards aren’t just scientific. Students will also learn how to care for God’s creation, to work as a team and to take responsibility for their community.

“The project is a way to integrate so many things that students are learning in all classes. It turns book learning into nurturing curiosity. It takes them from ‘show it’ to ‘do it,’” officials said in announcing the grant.

For some students, the lessons will help them grow food throughout their lives.

For others, the lessons could be even more significant, Klein said.

“If you look at today’s world, the careers out there — for some students, it could spark a career, whether it’s in boiolgy looking for ways to sustain plant life to farming.”


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