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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Groton greenhouse will offer real-world experience to 100 high school students

    Groton — Students at Robert E. Fitch High School will build a greenhouse and manage it like a business as part of an initiative that could involve as many as 100 students.

    The school received a $15,000 grant from Groton Utilities and permission from the state to use $32,000 from its Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grant to cover costs, Superintendent Michael Graner said.

    “It’s sort of the ultimate project-based learning, where kids are going to really roll up their sleeves,” he said.

    The project would draw students from across the high school to work on the venture and teach real-world skills: construction students would build the greenhouse, manufacturing students would oversee operations, accounting students would manage the books and technology students would handle the greenhouse's various specialized systems, said Dave Daigneault, technology education teacher at Fitch.

    “It’s how the private sector operates. People cooperate within their skills to make a common (goal) happen,” he said.

    The greenhouse project also would seek input from the high school's culinary students to order spices and vegetables for the school restaurant and bring in special education students who want vocational experience, Daigneault said. Students plan to sell some of the produce to the community, he said.

    Tiffany Bemis, 17, a senior at Fitch, researched greenhouse construction options last year with her class. “We looked at different structures and how long they would last and how they would work in (different) conditions,” she said.

    The students planned and organized the project.

    Antonyo Figueroa, 17, a junior who wants to be a petroleum engineer, said working on the construction interests him.

    "It gives us an opportunity for the school to open up new programs," he said.

    Bemis believes the greenhouse also will benefit students who struggle with technical education or other academics.

    “I feel like with some students who have a hard time learning, a hard time communicating with others, this would help them become more outgoing,” she said.

    The school has received zoning approval to build the 24-by-36-foot greenhouse behind the high school and adjacent to the engineering classroom. A California firm is working on the plans. Once they arrive, students would apply to the town for building permits, Daigneault said.

    Fitch is using Tewksbury, Mass.-based Griffin Greenhouse Supplies Inc., which has a division in Cheshire, to provide the building components for students to construct. Daigneault hopes to start construction by the end of March. Local farmers and Groton Utilities also will be involved in what is quickly becoming a community project.

    "We’re really excited about the program,” Graner said. “The way they’ve laid it out, it’s going to have a really positive impact on many departments. ... It's really hands-on learning, right across the board."

    d.straszheim@theday.com

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