Greenhouse Program

Few issues universally affect our planet’s population more than food. The VMS Greenhouse was built to provide a year-round classroom where students can get their hands dirty, engage all of their senses, and grow food that they can eat. Simultaneously, it is also a place to learn about nutrition, science, ethics, and the geopolitics behind food production. Students work and learn in our Greenhouse under the guidance of a full-time greenhouse coordinator, Gabe Scherzer, who by the way, is also our AP Environmental Science teacher.

About the Greenhouse

The Greenhouse was built from the ground up to be a state-of-the-art, year-round, indoor growing space and classroom. It houses six raised beds, an aeroponics tower garden, and an aquaponics system that uses living fish, their waste, and recirculating water to create a self-fertilizing growing platform. The 1200 sq. ft. structure is attached to the main school building and includes a ground-air heat transfer system that uses the temperature stability of the earth as a thermal battery to assist with both heating and cooling. This component was inspired, in part, by a student’s Senior Project that looked at ways to build sustainable, year-round, greenhouses in the Rocky Mountains.

In addition to being a home for greenhouse-specific classes, the space is also used by several science classes across the divisions when they are learning about topics such as photosynthesis, biodiversity, and plant science. The Greenhouse has also been used by the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to grow seedlings of endangered Penstemon.

Lower School Classes

Lower school students visit the greenhouse once per six-day rotation. Their focus is on soil, plant biology, and nutrition with age-appropriate projects tailored to each grade within these three areas. For example, where Kindergarten uses a very hands-on approach to learning about rocks as the building blocks of soil, fifth graders take a more scientific angle and perform a laboratory style deconstruction of different soil types to learn about composition and how many different elements come together to make healthy soil. Each lower school grade also plants and harvests edible plants such as radishes, carrots, or lettuce. A nutritional component of the class provides opportunities for students to try new foods (often ones they grow) and discuss the effects that different foods have on their bodies, i.e. do they make you go, grow, or glow.

Middle School Collaboration

In preparation for the Science Fair in 7th and 8th grade, the 6th graders complete a guided project using the scientific method from start to finish. Growing Wisconsin Fast Plants in the greenhouse allows students to manipulate independent variables and gather data to graph and analyze.

Current & Past Plantings

  • radishes
  • tomatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • kale
  • lima beans
  • carrots
  • beets
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • dill
  • sage
  • sugar snap peas
  • broccoli