Greenhouses will supplement academic learning

May 02, 2016 No Comments by

by Kayla Dwyer and Sara Kim

Just outside the office of Anthony DiLucci, director of career and technical education at the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services, is an open green space next to some playground structures.

Plastic cones on the grass mark the outlines of where a new greenhouse will be built to serve as a tool for educators across multiple programs at TST BOCES, a vocational school for high school juniors and seniors from nine regional schools, next fall. The construction crew broke ground on April 25, and DiLucci expects the construction to be completed by the end of May 2016.

He is calling the project the “Greenhouse to Table” initiative, much like the “Farm to Bistro” curriculum at Tompkins Cortland Community College, with which TST BOCES has a close relationship.

“A number of years ago when they designed their farm to bistro model, it dawned on me that that might be just another real strong connection between TST BOCES and TC3,” DiLucci said. “What better way to get a stronger connection than to recreate their farm to bistro model in a much smaller way.”

The new greenhouse will be a tool for teachers to use in programs such as culinary arts, food service, animal science, outdoor environmental studies and any other programs in which educators find a relevant use for the greenhouse.

“The concept is quite simple: to involve as many CTE courses of study here with the greenhouse,” DiLucci said.

Vicky Fitzgerald, the culinary arts program teacher, sees a wide range of uses for the new greenhouse, ranging from lessons about the economic, sustainable and health benefits of locally grown foods, to the shelf life of specific vegetables and herbs.

“What we’re hoping to utilize the greenhouse for is primarily fresh herbs and spices, and the way that we think that will be helpful as far as implementing in our classroom, is helping to teach the students about quality over convenience with regard to products,” she said.  

Sara Falco, the food services teacher at TST BOCES, said she will use the greenhouse to teach students the process of growing fresh vegetables and using them within their recipes.

“This will introduce them to the world of ‘Farm to Table’ eating and cooking, and help them to learn healthy eating habits for life,” she said.

Through the greenhouse, Falco said her students will learn how to grow and care for plants, as well as teach the students the skills necessary to work in the food industry.

Students from the outdoor recreation services program will help build the greenhouse and install key infrastructure, Mike Iannello, the outdoor recreation services teacher at TST BOCES, said.

Iannello said he and his students will also partake in the the care, maintenance and re-structuring of the work space to accommodate other projects.

“It will give my students another venue for a hands-on real life work experience, and allow them to work in a new and different environment and medium,” Iannello said.

With a federal grant through the Carl D Perkins Act, meant to fund career and technical education funds, DiLucci said the school was able to secure the $16,000 necessary to purchase the greenhouse kit — the set of materials needed for the construction of the greenhouse itself. He said the greenhouse will not be very big, as it is not meant for production, but instead for learning — and for acknowledging their contribution to sustainability efforts.

“Ithaca is a very green community. It was time for us to take a look at how we might become more sensitive and more involved in the green initiatives that are going on in this community,” DiLucci said. “It’s not a huge step, but it’s a start.”

In addition, the solar panels on the roof of the automotive engineering building — managed by students — will produce enough energy to offset the costs of cooling and heating the greenhouse. DiLucci said he had the future greenhouse in mind when this solar array was being built.

“This is not intended to be a production greenhouse, but it is intended to provide our students with an understanding of agribusiness and how the development of agribusiness, and the whole notion of conservation and sustainability, could lead to positive economic development,” he said.

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