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'Growing' in the greenhouse

At the sanitizing station, Perham High School students dip their media trays in bleach water to prevent bacteria from growing. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS

On a warm sunny day a couple of weeks ago, 27 Perham High School students headed out to the school greenhouse with their teacher Carl Aakre for some hands-on learning.

With temperatures outside warm and breezy, walking into the hot and sticky greenhouse took students by surprise, and many quickly decided to do most of their work outside.

Aakre had stations set up throughout the school shop, where students could prepare their planting trays.

After dipping their media trays in a sanitizing solution, the kids took turns filling them with potting soil. Then they headed back to the greenhouse to plant their assigned seeds.

The final step was to moisten the soil and seeds thoroughly. Aakre told his class to never spray high-pressure water directly on newly planted soil, as the seeds can wash away. Instead, students used various measures to moisten their soil, including soaking water up from below, or lightly misting the top with a special attachment on their hoses or water bottles.

Throughout the rest of the trimester, students will monitor soil moisture, temperature and pH levels, as well as learn about diseases and pests. Taking an active part in growing plants makes the curriculum of the plant science class better rounded, said Aakre.

The greenhouse is supported in part by Blossoms Birds and Beyond who provide seeds and growing material. In return, the school wholesales most of the plants back to the store.

The remaining plants are sold in a local plant sale at the end of May.

The greenhouse benefits other aspects of the community, as well. The local Future Farmers of America chapter uses the greenhouse to grow vegetables that they donate to the local food shelf.