Olentangy Valley News

Tyler Run's green thumbs emerge

Bounty from school's new greenhouse will be used in cafeteria, lessons

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LORRIE CECIL/THISWEEKNEWS
Tyler Run Elementary School third-grader Allison Baker and her classmates plant seeds last Thursday, Oct. 24, in the school's new greenhouse. The building will offer multiple learning experiences for students.
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The leaves may be turning brown, but you can still find green at Tyler Run Elementary School.

Lettuce, spinach, broccoli and arugula, among other vegetables, are growing at the school's new greenhouse, which opened Sept. 30.

The greenhouse is the product of two years of grant applications, donations and rethinking of student learning.

Third-grade teacher Barbara Sheehan led the charge.

"I was telling my students about working in the garden with my grandparents and it's not something they could relate to," Sheehan said. "Gardening is a personal thing that can bring family together, but you can also use that information you learn in the garden to become a real-world problem-solver."

Sheehan was awarded multiple grants -- $5,000 from Lowe's, $3,000 from the Olentangy Education Foundation, $1,000 from Fifth-Third Bank and $8,000 from the Tyler Run PTO -- to make her project a reality.

Once the funds were in place, teachers and parents worked together to construct the building and purchase planting items so students could begin using the greenhouse at the beginning of this school year.

"I think the greenhouse really highlights the good here in Olentangy," said Tyler Run interim Principal Bridget McMillen.

She said the whole school has backed Sheehan's mission to integrate gardening to enhance student learning, including the food service staff, which will serve the greenhouse-grown vegetables in the cafeteria.

When a heating unit is installed in the greenhouse, Sheehan said students can begin growing fruits. The school's Caring Kids Club also hopes to plant flowers that will be delivered to local nursing homes and used in the yards of Habitat for Humanity homes.

A Math and Science Committee composed of Tyler Run teachers currently is considering how to work the greenhouse into the curriculum for all grade levels, and parents have expressed interest in starting a garden club.

The community has even joined in to offer gardening supplies and books about plants. Local supporters include Mr. Mulch, which donated the pavers for the greenhouse's foundation, and Foertmeyer and Sons, which donated pots.

"When we have all these parts working together, it allows our students' experiences to be so advanced," McMillen said.

Sheehan's third-grade students decorated the greenhouse at the beginning of the school year and began planting in late September, but the building is available for all classes to use.

At least once a week, classes head out to the greenhouse next to the playground to monitor plant growth and read the books that are displayed on a table in the center of the building, Sheehan said.

"There is a connection. There is an excitement," Sheehan said of how her students have approached learning about life cycles now that the greenhouse is part of the lesson. "When I put a new book out, I know they're going to read it, because they're excited and they're truly interested."

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