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Oakboro Choice STEM builds new sustainability greenhouse

The old slogan “Have a Coke and a smile” could have applied to Oakboro Saturday.

Students and staff from Oakboro Choice STEM school came together behind the school to build a sustainable greenhouse out of 2-liter bottles and bamboo.

The project was the brainchild of Hannah Griffin, a middle school science teacher at the school.

She also leads the school’s sustainability club. The club helped to spearhead the project.

Photo by CHRIS MILLER/staff
(Above) Students Madison Tarlton, left, Grace Dombrowski, Mariah Zimmerman and Kaylee Snellings rip off labels of the 2-liter bottles that will be used to help create the greenhouse.

Last year, Griffin and the club had the idea to transform the ground behind the school into an outdoor learning area for students.

“The idea spawned into a native garden,” said Christina Edwards, a parent, substitute teacher and volunteer with the sustainability club.

A native fish pond, native plants, benches, pathways and log seats for an outdoor classroom are all planned for the learning area.

The school also has chickens.

Last year the sustainability club created a vegetable garden in the spring and raised donations for the plants. They thought of ways to make the school sustainable and a greenhouse came to mind. With a greenhouse, the school could seed and raise its own plants.

“We thought it would be great to put our greenhouses in the outside learning area,” said Edwards.

Griffin said many of the students learn about different parts of plants in their science classes.

“Getting these kids to have hands-on experiences with our curriculum, that’s really our goal,” said Griffin. “Getting them outside and the outdoor education part of it.”

Edwards said getting young kids outside working on projects and learning how to garden is a “lost art,” especially to this generation of kids.

“One of our main goals is to teach kids how to grow food,” said Griffin.

There are two greenhouses: one made out of 2-liter bottles and bamboo and the other is a plastic greenhouse built from a kit.

There was a competition among all the classes in November to collect the most 2-liter bottles. Ultimately the competition lasted about a month and the school ended up collecting a little more than 2,000 bottles.

Several students showed up to help with the greenhouse project, each having a different task.

The kids ripped labels off the bottles, they cut off the bottoms of the bottles, carried the bamboo and the wood for the main frame and measured the proper distance to hammer the stakes into the ground.

The bottoms of the bottles were cut; the bottles were stacked on top of each other along a stick of locally grown bamboo; then the wooden frame — provided by Locust Lumber — was built. The bamboo sticks and bottles were attached to the frame. Finally the whole inside of the greenhouse was insulated with bubble wrap.

Stanly County Master Gardeners and A and D Construction also helped with the greenhouse project.

The kids were happy to help build the greenhouses, each about 6 feet by 8 feet.

“I’m very excited because this is a thing I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time,” said Michael Tucker, a seventh-grade student at the school. “We’ve worked hard to get it here.”

“We’ve got the garden, we’ve got the chickens, this is really the only thing we’re missing to our whole collection,” said Jacob King, a sixth-grade student at the school.

“We are leaving a mark” on the school, added Edwards.

Perhaps what makes it more impressive is this is only the second year Oakboro Choice STEM has been around.

The project will “be something that I’ll be able to look back on for the rest of my life,” said King. “My kids can come to this school and I can still say, ‘Hey, I built that.’ ”

The greenhouse and garden will be with the students forever, said Kelly Dombrowski, principal of the school.

“They will pass that on and that responsibility to keep it up.”

Dombrowski said the project “is neat to be a part of, it’s very special.”

Contributed
The finished sustainable greenhouse behind Oakboro Choice STEM School.

“One thing that I like the most about Oakboro,” Griffin said, “is that I have never seen a group of people come together as much as they do…the whole community, anything that we need, any idea that we have, we have people come all over the community to help us. They just have the same vision that we do for our school.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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