There are three levels of horticulture classes offered.
Anne Cadle, director of development, said the greenhouse courses start with teaching students “about plants and how to grow them all the way up to the business side of it; they will grow things and sell them to the public or to local businesses and then will sell them.”
Flowers, cone flowers, okra, tomatoes, watermelon, radishes, tomatoes, jalapeños and other pepper plants sprout in neat rows on tables in the greenhouse. As the plants get larger they are transplanted to the school’s outdoor gardens.
“We all know what carrots look like and how to eat them, but you don’t know how to grow them — not everyone knows how to grow the plants. … Rather than you sitting in a classroom and us just showing pictures, we actually go out and grow the things and check on them every single day,” said student greenhouse assistant manager Baylor Horne of Knoxville.
Chad Pickeral, horticulture teacher, said the greenhouse management class studies how to “keep books, estimate costs” and do some financial planning.
A partnership with Ace Hardware put the students’ hard work on display as the store purchased mums from the greenhouse to sell in the 25th Street store.
The mums were sold near Mother’s Day last year.
Greenhouse student CEO Emily Greenleaf of Cleveland played a major role in coordinating this project. She sent out a number of emails and made calls to find a business that would be willing to sell the plants.
She said the project gave her experience seeing how other places run greenhouses.
“Recently we got a grant from Whole Foods, which is very exciting,” Cadle said. “That is going to allow us to do so much with the greenhouse.”
The funds will be used to buy supplies, seeds and plugs (for plants that are harder to start from a seed), and to update equipment.
The grant has also allowed the school to replace the roof on the greenhouse.
Pickeral said plans for the future include planting strawberries outside the enclosed greenhouse.
“The students will actually be able to walk out throughout the year and eat strawberries,” Pickeral said. “That will be starting next year.”
Right now the strawberry plants are getting their start in the greenhouse.
This year the school is introducing raised beds to the outdoor gardens.
“This is the first year we have tried it with this design,” Pickeral said.
Each bed has a wire screen over the top of it. The rectangles of the screen are 1 inch wide and 2 inches high.
Pickeral said the screen serves as a measuring tool.
“The kids have trouble measuring and I can say plant this ... 6 inches apart. They can count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and plant there. It’s kind of fun,” Pickeral said.
In the raised beds, lettuce and corn are already sprouting.
“Corn isn’t self pollenating, so it has to be with other corn to get pollenated,” Pickeral said.
He said everything in the raised beds has been grown from seeds planted by the classes.
“zthey get the whole experience of planting the seed, watching it grow, transplanting,” Pickeral said.
The greenhouse classes are using a traditional “three-sister” method of growing corn, gourds and beans together.
Cadle said the greenhouse is a good example of how the school focuses on “experiential learning and seeing how many ways we can get information to the students, how many senses can we use while teaching.”
In the horticulture classes, students can incorporate all five as they see the plants grow, hear instruction, smell the flowers, touch the dirt and ultimately taste the vegetables they have grown.
Cadle said the classes also include information about nutrition and reinforce the math and science learned in the classroom.
The maintenance staff also works closely with the horticulture classes.
Maintenance staff work even when students are on break and had previously maintained their own garden from which they cooked lunch in the summer.
This year the maintenance department is tilling the path of land and then leaving the planting up to the horticulture classes.
Vegetables not sold or given away will be used by Bachman’s boarding students.
“They will plan the meal, figure out the proper way to cook or prepare whatever it is, and then eat it. So, they will have that learning experience and the satisfaction of knowing they grew what they were having for dinner or lunch that day,” Cadle said.
Pickeral takes suggestions from the students and the community on what to plant.
“This year the big request was heirloom tomatoes,” said maintenance manager Jim Brown.
The school also plans to have a pumpkin patch again.
Bachman Academy serves students in grades 6-12 with speech and learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia (disability in writing) or dyscalculia (disability in math). Many of the students have also been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.
Cadle said experiential learning is crucial because teachers have to keep students’ attention to be effective.