Students' work makes greenhouse bloom anew

April 09, 1997


Staff Writer

He was forewarned that the greenhouse would need a little work before he took the job as agriculture teacher at South Hagerstown High School.

But first-year teacher Matt Hurley was not prepared for what he saw when he opened the door of the two-room metal and fiberglass structure.

"I looked in and just couldn't believe it," said Hurley, 24, who saw plant tables piled higher than his head with old books, boxes and other trash put there over the summer. "You couldn't sit 10 plants in here."


Thanks to a lot of hard work - done mostly by his horticulture students - more than 3,500 plants are thriving there now, Hurley said.

The greenhouse is a vital part of the school's horticulture program, especially for students in the advanced class, said the Waynesboro, Pa., native, who also heads the school's Future Farmers of America chapter.

Hurley estimates his Horticulture 2 students spend about 75 percent of their class time working on hands-on projects, including tending the greenhouse.

Students also work on landscaping and floral arranging projects.

It gives students a chance to put a lot of the theory they learn in the classroom into practice, he said.

"They don't just hear about it, they see it, and they do it," Hurley said.

Students learn public speaking and marketing for the sales portion of the project, he said.

Greenhouse-grown plants - including poinsettias, Easter lilies, bedding flowers and several varieties of tomatoes - are sold to school staff and the public to help support the school's agriculture and FFA programs, he said.

The greenhouse was used to some degree last year, when the school was without a permanent agriculture teacher, but it was far from usable in the first weeks of the current school year, Hurley said.

The clutter, which nearly filled the more than 1,000-square-foot space, had been moved from the adjacent agriculture classroom and shop building when it was emptied for painting, he said.

Cleaning out the junk was only the first step in getting the greenhouse back into shape, said Hurley, who spent his entire first week hauling out trash.

The students took it from there, spending several weeks at the start of the school year clearing out remaining trash, sanitizing the building and shelving and tidying up the dirt and rock floor, he said.

It was dirty work, but satisfying, said junior Dawn McAfee, who said she has reaped the benefits of her work in hands-on learning.

McAfee, 16, said planting, replanting and marketing are her favorite parts of the project.

You can't really learn a subject like horticulture unless you do it, said junior Leslee Churchey, who found whipping the greenhouse into shape took a lot of time.

"It was fun at the beginning, but eventually it got tiresome because we wanted to get into planting things," said Churchey, 16.

Plants sell for $1 per four-pack. More information can be obtained by phoning Hurley at 766-8369 or stopping by the school.

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