A greenhouse and growing center on Reynoldsburg's Livingston Avenue high school campus should be completed in August, thanks to a $20,000 grant from Battelle Memorial Institute.

Superintendent Melvin Brown said learning to grow nutritious foods and other aspects of food knowledge help teach "the whole student."

"I think food sustainability is an issue internationally," Brown said. "We want students to learn about good nutrition and what role that plays in the successful development of their bodies.

"The growing center also could foster careers in nutrition. So this is something that could be valuable for all of our students."

Kevin Smith, assistant principal at Reynoldsburg High School, said several district schools already have garden spaces.

"Herbert Mills (Elementary) and Waggoner Road Middle schools both have garden spaces, and Baldwin Road Junior High has their soil lab," he said. "Summit Road High School campus already has a greenhouse.

"We wanted students to be able to continue on this journey, regardless of which high school campus they selected," he said.

Smith said a "hands-on" greenhouse and growing center would support problem-based learning opportunities and projects, which is what STEM education (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is all about.

"The grant also provides funding for some culinary supplies and outdoor tables," he said. "So the growing center could be utilized as an outdoor classroom."

He said the greenhouse would complement the Slow Foods Club established at the Livingston campus, which currently uses square foot gardening concepts in the courtyard and hydroponic growing systems in the Student Success Center.

"Providing students with experiences in raising food in an urban or suburban setting gives the opportunity for students to learn and engage in habits that have been shown to reduce stress and promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle," he said.

Trevor Horn, teacher and adviser for the Slow Food Club, said the club is based on the "slow food movement" begun in Italy in the late 1970s. People in a small town in Italy protested the construction of a McDonald's restaurant by cooking penne pasta and sauce made from homegrown vegetables -- then gave the food out to a crowd supporting the restaurant.

"The club emphasizes good, clean food and best farming practices," Horn said. "We want kids to know where their food comes from."

Aimee Kennedy, senior vice president of philanthropy and education at Battelle, said the company's overall strategy for philanthropy "is built upon the idea that every child deserves a quality STEM education."

"For this specific program, we look to provide seed funding for organizations that deliver STEM learning in new, often surprising ways," she said.

"In this grant, educators are bringing the science of nutrition and gardening to life."

Kennedy is a former principal at Reynoldsburg City Schools.

"We rely on (Reynoldsburg educators) as a resource for other STEM schools around the state," she said. "In this program, their expertise goes out of the classroom. They are creating a new, community-focused space."

Smith said the growing center is a natural fit in the science department.

"All teachers, however, whether they teach science, art, math, English, social studies or an elective, would have access to this space," he said. "We want this to be a collaborative effort where everyone feels they have an opportunity to engage in the types of hands-on experiences that the greenhouse affords."

He said the outdoor classroom also could serve as a "change of space" for teachers who want to conduct classes outside in good weather.

Design, plants, ecology, sustainability and the environment are inclusive throughout Ohio's learning standards, Smith said.

He said the greenhouse should be complete sometime in August.

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