The newest addition to Shanahan Middle School will pave the way for lessons on science and healthful eating.

The newest addition to Shanahan Middle School will pave the way for lessons on science and healthful eating.

Sixth-graders sowed seeds in the school's brand-new greenhouse last week.

Students planted tomato seeds inside the building, located at the east side of the school, during science class April 17.

The interior of the building, warmed by the sun's rays, provides the perfect environment to grow tomato plants, said Cynthia Walters, the

Shanahan art teacher who spearheaded efforts to build the greenhouse.

"Right now we're learning the basics of planting and demonstrating the function of the greenhouse," Walters said.

Shanahan teachers hope the climate-controlled building can help make gardening a cornerstone of the school's science curriculum.

In addition to the tomato plants, students also planted sugar snap peas in the school's two outdoor gardens.

The plants will be studied during lessons on genetics and ecology.

The outdoor beds were installed four years ago to be used as part of science lessons, but teachers found they had little time to plant in the spring before summer vacation.

Building a greenhouse for year-round gardening became a top priority for Walters – but raising the $25,000 required for construction was no small task.

For three years she applied for grants, accepted donations and organized fundraising opportunities.

Last year, the school hosted the first-ever Olentangy Health Fair, featuring live product demonstrations, health screenings and family activities, with proceeds going to the greenhouse fund.

The building was constructed by volunteers in the fall and finished in December.

Sixth-graders will complete the first greenhouse gardening project, but in the future, students at all grade levels will take advantage of the facility.

Students in Jennifer Kinney's science class currently are planting sugar snap peas in two different varieties of soil to see which produces healthier plants.

Other projects will have students crossbreeding different varieties of plants to learn how genes are passed along.

Kinney said the hands-on projects give students a real-world appreciation for scientific concepts.

"Giving them the opportunity to experiment and do the legwork from beginning to end is a critical part of these lessons," she said.

Walters said she hopes the greenhouse will have the added benefit of giving students an opportunity to think about making healthful choices.

This spring, they will get a chance to sample the peas and tomatoes after the plants are grown.

"It's all about empowering kids to grow and eat healthy foods," she said. "I know it's going to be a memorable learning experience."

Greenhouses could start cropping up around the district in the years to come. Currently, Hyatts Middle School staffers are raising money to build a facility at their school.