Students build greenhouse to rehabilitate local endangered species
For students in Grandview Preparatory School’s Innovation Program, learning is literally taking place outside of the classroom. The Innovation Program is a personalized learning experience for highly motivated high school students. The course of study is customized based on the skills and interests of the individual student, comprising of collegiate curriculum taught in a blended (online and in person) format and the completion of a completely student-run, in-depth research project using student passions to enhance innovation and connect students to the community.
Dubbed the “Passion Project,” students in the program collaborate to use each member’s strengths and interests to decide on a topic, assign roles and execute the project. “Projects like this one make school more like real life,” said Sam Berey, Director of Program Innovation at Grandview and the faculty advisor for the Passion Project. “It’s an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic, worthy of the students’ attention and effort.”
The project for the 2015 cohort? A student-constructed greenhouse designed to house and rehabilitate local endangered species– more specifically, butterflies. Caitlen Macias, a junior in the Innovation Program at Grandview, said that the group considered many different projects, but ultimately chose the greenhouse because of its far-reaching impact. “We wanted a project that would impact our Grandview community and the South Florida area,” said Macias.
The students plan to host the Atala hairstreak butterfly, along with its host plants, which are all recognized as endangered species in Florida. “We hope to bring its population back to what it once was before invasive species and over development killed its host plants,” said Tasman Rosenfeld, a freshmen. “Butterflies, like bees, are pollinators, so their disappearance can have significant consequences on our ecosystem.” The greenhouse will also host some newly-endangered monarch butterflies and a number of heliconian butterflies, both of which are native to Florida.
The students have three goals for their greenhouse project: first, to build the greenhouse on campus, allowing for the education of students at all levels; second, to populate the greenhouse and work to rehabilitate local species by recording, demonstrating and sharing their collaborative efforts; and third, to inspire the community to take an interest in and raise awareness about supporting the conservation of our local environment.
Students have already inspired the Grandview community; their GoFundMe campaign (to raise the funds necessary for purchasing the materials to build the greenhouse) raised over $6,000 in less than six days. As part of the campaign, students wrote, recorded and produced a video about the greenhouse.
“Not only are the students incredibly dedicated and passionate about this project, but they share those same emotions about collaborating with one another,” said Berey. “The greenhouse project proves that when students are interested in what they are doing and are able to use their areas of strength, they achieve at a higher level.”
Most recently, students have spent time on the weekends and after school setting the foundation for the greenhouse. Jeffrey Adkins from Adkins Orchids, Inc. has guided the students as they have learned valuable skills in building: clearing and leveling land, wielding an ax and a sledge hammer, framing a building and pouring cement.
“Working with people who have different skill sets really taught me to appreciate what everyone has to offer and we all collaborated to find ways for everyone to be helpful to the greenhouse project,” said Jack Forney, a junior in the Innovation Program. “You can’t find the things we are learning in a textbook.”