Damaged greenhouses have given about 80 Buckhannon-Upshur High School students the opportunity to dig into a hands-on learning project.
The remains of greenhouse structures still stand behind the school after sustaining damages from the June 28 destructive storm that swept through the state. The damages will be repaired and improvements made with the assistance of the students, who are helping out for class credit and job experience and to expand their education.
The storm damaged the plastic covering of the greenhouses, said Joseph Hymes, agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Buckhannon-Upshur High School students have teamed up to improve and repair their school’s on-campus greenhouses used for laboratory studies. The greenhouses were damaged in the June 28 destructive storm, so about 80 students are taking the opportunity to not only repair the damages, but also to strengthen and improve upon what was already there.
"Without a covering, we can't maintain a temperature that's warm enough to grow some plants this time of year," Hymes said. "Other than the covering on the greenhouse, there weren't any other damages."
After the storm, however, the damaged covering exposed the interior of the greenhouses, Hymes said.
With a budget of about $31,000 from insurance funds, Hymes and his students plan to put every penny toward repairs and improvements of the greenhouses, through adding reinforcements to the structure, upgrading walls and purchasing a more durable covering.
The covering on the greenhouses before the storm was made of polyethylene plastic.
"It's cheap and efficient, but it's not always as durable (and doesn't have) the longevity some of the other materials (have)," Hymes said, adding that a different plastic covering is on order. "It's a polyethylene the same way, but it's used in a different fashion."
The new covering has an insulating air space between two layers, has an improved and more even distribution of light, and has a better warranty.
Although the new covering has not arrived, students have already started taking steps toward improving the greenhouses' structure and preparing for when the plastic is ready to be installed. Hymes said he is hoping the delivery will be made early in November.
Students have already installed new walls and helped to clean the area around the greenhouses. Also, students have installed some galvanized steel cabling as structural reinforcement.
Upcoming projects for the students include refurbishing electrical systems and installing heaters and exhaust fans.
"You learn the proper way to build a greenhouse and to know that you've got to not only help Mr. Hymes, but the class," said Bobby Heater, a 17-year-old horticulture student who is working with her classmates on the greenhouse restoration.
Hymes' students receive grades for the work they do with the greenhouses.
Also, they have the option to use Hymes as a future job reference.
"It means a lot, because the school can use it for the future," said Justin Poling, a 16-year-old horticulture student. "We get to help our class, and we get to have a greenhouse."
Without a greenhouse, the students educational opportunities would be limited, Hymes said.
"There's a few things we can do, but the size and scale of what we can do in here is much greater than what we could do in a classroom window or under a light in the classroom," Hymes said, adding that classes such as biology also make use of the greenhouse.
"These greenhouses are a huge laboratory opportunity for students that work with some scientific principles and some things they need to know about plants in general."
The greenhouses aren't just used by BUHS students. Hymes said that West Virginia Wesleyan College students have utilized the greenhouses in the past for laboratory space. Individuals in the community, as well as teachers, have allowed their plants to be stored and cut at the greenhouses.
The City of Buckhannon has used part of the greenhouse space to produce plants for streetscapes and landscapes downtown for at least the past six years, Hymes said. Every spring, the classes host a vegetable and bedding plant sale, earning money to replenish equipment for the greenhouse.
"So it's not just us benefiting from it," Hymes said. "It's pretty big for the community."
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at mtoothman @theintermountain.com.