The second annual Beyond the Books Educational Foundation $10,000 Beyond the Box grant was awarded today to educators from Normal Community High School for their project titled “Horticultural Therapy.” Educators receiving today’s Beyond the Books Educational Foundation grant include: Kevin Enderlin, Molly Stolfa, Hilary Ruyle and Carrie Leonard.
The stated goal of this grant is to utilize Horticultural Therapy, or Greenhouse Production, to keep students in the Student Support Program in school. It was pointed out in the grant application that one out of two students in the Student Support Program will not graduate from high school. This grant will encourage these students to stay in school by utilizing hands-on greenhouse production activities to connect math/science principles and concepts to real life employment situations.
Teachers will use the greenhouse to bring the classroom to life. The greenhouse will be operated as a business, and students involved in the project will own an equal share of the business. Profits from a plant sale held in May will be distributed to students involved in the production, marketing and selling of the plants produced. However, these students must stay in school until the end of the school year to be eligible to receive payments from the profits of the plant sale.
This grant project is a joint venture between the Special Education and Agricultural Departments of Normal Community High School. Student Support Program students will work cooperatively with their agricultural student mentors in the classroom between February and May.
Here are a few highlights of activities planned for “Horticultural Therapy”:
- Tomato/Pepper Production- Students will start tomato and pepper plants from seeds at the start of the school year. Students will care for these plants in the greenhouse throughout the school year. The fresh tomatoes and peppers raised in the greenhouse will be utilized by the NCHS school cafeteria. Students will learn the principals of plant growth and development, plant reproduction, and how to manage a plants environment. Students will also learn to calculate the value of the tomato and pepper crops and how they might create a market for their crop locally.
- Landscape Design and Installation- Students will design a landscape that they will then install around the outside of the greenhouse.
- In January, students will begin planting and transplanting vegetable and flower bedding plants in the greenhouse. Students will care for the plants until May. In May, the students will offer their plants for sale to parents, staff and members of the community. Flowers not sold will be planted by the students into a school landscape.
- Students involved in the project will manage public relations activities to create parent, staff, and community support for the project. They will utilize school newsletters and the local media to help raise awareness.
- Teachers involved in the project will coordinate with local experts such as Master Gardeners, local companies, nurseries as guest speakers and expert resources. Additionally, field trips will be coordinated to local horticulture related businesses and community colleges to give students the opportunity to experience real life opportunities and application of skills.
Additional funding for this project was provided by FCAE (Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education), FFA, and the McLean County Farm Bureau.