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‘Classroom of the Future:’ Partnership leads to greenhouse at Cañon City High School

Posted September 26th, 2019 - Also involved in the planning process is Loic Le Goueff, an environmental engineer with the Barcelona-based Green In Blue, and an international expert in aquaponics design.

“Both the educators and students at CCHS have expressed the immediate need for a STEAM Greenhouse, which also will serve as a community advanced education center, behavior health environment and youth development site,” said Jenni Guentcheva, the director of GTI. “The greenhouse is designed to be an environment suited for STEAM education, acquisition of personal and communal coping skills, creative endeavors and artistic pursuits.”

STEAM adds the “agriculture” piece to the what’s commonly known as “STEM” – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Guentcheva said as CCHS is a flagship school for the rural education system and Cañon City is being revitalized through community involvement with the Main Street Revolution, high-tech and building initiatives, this project too maintains the current standards and expectations of the community and builds the potential for community development and student apprenticeships.

“One of the reasons we want a greenhouse is so that we can teach students how to be completely sustainable, how to grow their food organically,” said Carrie Trimble, a science instructor at CCHS. “It will be a classroom, and it will be a place to do experiments.”

She hopes to include the school’s business department so the crops can be sold to sustain the cost of the greenhouse; the culinary arts program will be able to use the food, some of which will be donated to the school, to the district and to Loaves & Fishes; the vocational classes will help build the greenhouse and its apparatuses; and the technical writing class will write grants for funding.

“We are going to try to make it totally energy-sustainable as much as possible by placing it partly under the ground to help it cool and heat,” Trimble said.

Guentcheva said the facility will be owned by the school district but it will be available to all youth, as well as community members.

 “It will be a wonderful community center where everybody can come in and learn new things – maybe learn about aquaponics, learn how to grow their own food, how to prepare their own food,” she said.

Ian Norris, the community coordinator and a peer coach for GTI, hopes to incorporate curriculum for students with special needs and bring in adult consumers from Starpoint to also be part of the project.

“They can have interaction with the fish and some can be in charge of certain aspects of it, like checking the pH of the water and feeding the fish,” he said.

Currently, GTI is launching a fundraising campaign to assist this project. The total cost is projected to be just under $100,000, but $17,000 of that is the initial funding to get the greenhouse up.

“Overall, it’s a very inexpensive project for the return that we are expecting,” Guentcheva said.

She said construction should start late this fall or next spring.

Le Goueff visited CCHS this week and met with Trimble’s students and GTI staff to look at the site and talk about preliminary design work. He will work remotely to offer technical support and will return when the system is up and running.

“We are really trying to empower people to get their aquaponics going and try to kill as little fish as possible,” he said. “Aquaponics is a wonderful system, it brings many advantages: it uses 10 times less water, plants grow two to three times faster and it utilizes the biological process to convert fish waste to fertilizer for plants that are growing without soil.”

To learn more, or to contribute financially to the project, email Guentcheva at guentchevaGTI@gmail.com.