Starting A School Greenhouse: Best Practices from Andrew Cooke Magnet School

Starting a school greenhouse/garden program is a team effort.  It requires passion, time, and financial commitments from staff, students, the school administration, and the community. It is helpful that programming ideas are in place to justify the use of a greenhouse.  It requires community volunteers to be available to assist in plant care and greenhouse housekeeping.  Despite the effort, the outcome is very happy, enthusiastic students that can take home plants they started at school and watch them grow all summer!  Academically, you can see your standardized test scores for science rise.

Here is my story of how I got our school greenhouse into production:

In 2009, Principal Nan Heim asked me, Todd Freer, the school Science Teacher, to take over the rehabilitation of our abandon greenhouse at Andrew Cooke Magnet School in
Waukegan, IL.  The greenhouse, that was once a strong part of Andrew Cooke, had become little more than a storage facility.

During the years that followed, with a grant from Pepsi and donations from the community, the greenhouse roof was replaced, an automatic watering system was installed, and a plant sale was held.  The greenhouse was poised to become the centerpiece of the Growing Green Science Curriculum developed and spearheaded with the assistance of GreenTown Waukegan Program Director, Cheryl Pytlarz.

Cooke staff plan to use the Gardener’s Supply grant to repair the ventilation system in the school’s greenhouse. “Because of insufficient ventilation, the greenhouse temperature often exceeds 130 degrees, which makes it nearly impossible to grow plants and then difficult to implement our Growing Green program.  The ventilation repair should bring our greenhouse into tip-top shape,” says Mr. Freer.

Thanks to the extremely generous grant from Gardener’s Supply and The Green Education Foundation, the venting system will be repaired so that greenhouse temperatures can be regulated year round and plant growth can be self-sustaining.

“My goal for my students is simple.  I hope that when my students graduate from Cooke in 5th grade, that they realized that science is not just a class but an everyday occurrence,” says Mr. Freer.

Winning the Green Thumb Challenge award is very exciting for the future of our greenhouse/garden programs.  Thank you Gardener’s Supply!

About Green Education Foundation (GEF)

Mission Green Education Foundation (GEF), a non-profit organization, is committed to creating a sustainable future through education. Sustainability Education provides educators with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems. GEF provides curriculum and resources to K-12 students and teachers worldwide with the goal of challenging youth to think holistically and critically about global environmental concerns and solutions. Visit to register for free and to gain full access to GEF’s comprehensive library of standards-based lessons and activities.
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1 Response to Starting A School Greenhouse: Best Practices from Andrew Cooke Magnet School

  1. Pingback: The Green Thumb Challenge Grant Is Back In Action! | Green Education Foundation (GEF)

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