Seventh graders Simone Rein Bosworth and Tashiana Lynch are standing in Nauset Middle school’s 30 by 50 foot greenhouse, peering into a microscope...
Simone: We are looking at a pest that we found on one of our plants.
Tashiana: It’s really gross.
Elspeth: And what did you find this little guy on?
Simone: We found him in one of our fish totes of lettuce that is growing, and we look for aphids most of all because we had an infestation in our houseplants, but we made a soap solution that has taken care of that.
Today, the kids are trying to identify this new pest. The kids’ year long project has been to successfully produce salad greens for sale at local restaurants and farmers’ markets, and greenhouse coordinator Shannon Bertram has them involved in every step of the process.
Shannon: Uh who would like to harvest the pea shoots. I would! So here we have about 30 trays of pea shoots that are ready for harvesting tomorrow. We usually like them to get about 4 inches tall prior to harvesting. So the students are all familiar with the process.
Rebekah: Well I’m cutting the stems off and putting them in a bucket of water and they’re like rinsing in that one and then we bag them, it’s usually like three ounces a bag.
That’s Rebekah Knieriem, a seventh grader, who says next the pea shoots go into the school’s walk in refrigerator, where they wait to be sold. Then the process starts again: the students soak pea seeds in a big bucket of water and spread them evenly into rectangular plastic trays with just a little bit of soil and a cover on top. After two or three days the pea seeds start to sprout and the cover comes off. Finally, after a week in the sunlight, they’re ready for market. Here’s greenhouse coordinator Shannon Bertram again:
Shannon: I have my eighth graders on Wednesday afternoons harvest 2 pounds of pea shoots go in school van to Brewster fish house go in back door to kitchen talk to chef, collect money go back to school fill out deposit slips and you know really get an idea of what it’s really like to run your own business.
Students can also volunteer to sell the pea shoots and the other salad greens they grow at the Orleans Winter Farmers Market, which takes place every first and third Saturday of the month in the middle school’s cafeteria. Sixth grader Jade Francis says this work has been a huge learning experience:
Jade : I like that it kind of like gets me ready for when I finally have a job and seeing other people and doing business, I like that.
Since the greenhouse was built in 2014, coordinator Shannon Bertram has worked with teachers in every discipline to use the growing space to teach kids about things as different as Spanish vocabulary and in math classes rates of change. The kids’ also see their greens every day in the school cafeteria, where they’re incorporated into Caesar salads. Bertram says this visibility is one of her favorite parts of the program:
Shannon: One thing I love about the greenhouse is everything you see from small seedlings to large plants started as seeds from the students so they can really see the fruits of their labor.
A growing number of schools on the Cape and Islands have greenhouse classrooms. The spaces are everything from traditional glass rooms to plastic hoophouses to tiny frames built by students out of recycled plastic water bottles.
Many schools in our area have greenhouses. Here are links to articles about two new ones being constructed:
This Local Food Report first aired in April, 2016.