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Greenhouse helps teach students to 'think like a plant'

Washington County Technical High School greenhouse open for business

April 02, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • Amanda Williams, from left, Courtney Bills, Megumi Ito and Tanzila Aslonova arrange geraniums at the Washington County Technical High greenhouse in preparation for its grand opening which was held Thursday.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- It's a sure sign of spring when the smell of fresh potting soil hangs in the air at the Washington County Technical High School greenhouse as students tend to tables filled with annuals, perennials, vegetables and hanging baskets.

It's also a sign that the school's greenhouse is back in business. The grand opening was Thursday, marking the start of the sixth season for the student enterprise.

A day earlier, students completed final tasks in preparation for opening day. They watered seedlings, transplanted plants, planted seeds, cleared out space for the new touchscreen cash register, tagged plants, labeled plant prices, counted the hanging baskets, and posted fliers in schools and businesses.

The rush was on to open the greenhouse before Easter, when customers start making their plant purchases, said Steve Frame, environmental horticulture and landscape design teacher.

"We want to sell our product. We have to be sensitive to holidays," said Frame, who is assisted by his parents, Barb and Dick Frame, retired West Virginia school teachers.

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The downside is that students -- a partnership of those studying Horticulture and Entrepreneurship -- were on spring break for the opening and won't be back in the greenhouse until Wednesday.

The greenhouse -- where the motto is "Think like a plant and leaf the rest to us!" -- is at the rear of the high school property. It will be open until all the plants are sold, most likely at the end of May or in early June, Steve Frame said.

In an effort to make the checkout process more efficient, a touchscreen cash register seen at a Baltimore trade show will make its debut. Using it will give students hands-on experience with equipment they might use on the job.

The first plants began arriving at the greenhouse March 3. Students transplanted the plugs and have grown some plants such as cucumbers, tomatoes, zinnias and marigolds from seed, Barb Frame said.

"They've worked so hard. And the community has been great supporting the school," she added.

Students work in teams with names such as The Rockin' Roses, Smokebrush, The Nightshades, The Weed Whackers, The Mulch Men and The Violets.

The Violets team is Tanzila Aslonova, who is from Tajikistan, Megumi Ito of Japan and Amanda Williams, whose home school is North Hagerstown High School.

"There are things they teach me and things I teach them," Amanda said. "I do better with people than by myself. I like the group thing."

Tanzila said her host mother offered her the option of going to North Hagerstown or South Hagerstown high school or Tech High. Tanzila chose Tech High because she was interested in the horticulture program.

"I chose landscape design because I'm interested in the environment, plants and flowers. I like my tech high program," said Tanzila, who said her knowledge of American culture and her ability to speak English have improved since she arrived in August.

Junior Jacob Swope said he took the horticulture course so he can help out his dad, who owns a landscaping business.

"I've learned a lot from this class," said Jacob, who added he enjoys the hands-on work the most. "The ability to grow all these different plants effectively, that's really nice."

Jacob said he's also learned that running your own greenhouse or landscaping business is hard work, requires lots of knowledge to be successful and a good team.

"You need to really work together with everyone else. You have to be organized to know what you're doing," he said.

The greenhouse is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. It is closed on Sundays.

More information about the greenhouse can be obtained at http://www.scoresup.com/technicalhighschool or by calling 301-766-8484.

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