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Lee Burneson Middle School won the Gardens That Teach Challenge in Cuyahoga County.  Tunnel Vision Hoops will work with Technology teacher Kurt Thonnings to install a $2,246 hoop house at the new middle school this spring.

The Hummingbird Project also is donating a Healthy Soil Workshop valued at $600 to LBMS, teaching students about the complex soil food web.

The hoop house will be incorporated as part of a large community/school garden area at the new middle school, scheduled to open this fall. Thonnings already planned to build a small, 12-foot-long hoop house in the area this spring. The new hoop house will be part of that area that students and the Westlake Garden Club will maintain.

A school garden is a real world, living laboratory that offers teachers an interdisciplinary way to embed creativity, communication and collaboration into a 21st Century curriculum. A hoop house extends the growing season with fresh, locally grown, healthy foods.

Thonnings intends to use the plants grown in the hoop houses and gardens for research and to supplement the school cafeterias of LBMS and the future Dover Intermediate School, as well as the Lutheran Home at Concord Reserve (located next to the current middle school) and possibly local charities.

The project potentially could impact about 1,200 students between the middle and intermediate schools. Teachers, PTA and the Westlake Garden Club will plan, build and maintain the garden. Science teachers will plan activities from plant science to soil biology, as well as weather concepts. Thonnings will have his technology students design and build prototypes for solar-powered irrigation systems, rain collection and solar-powered fans for the hoop houses. Data will be collected with sensors on pH levels, soil moisture and mineral levels.

Thonnings also hopes to collaborate with other schools that have gardens and set up Skype conferences, as well as wikipages for students to communicate, problem-solve and share advice. He anticipates starting an after school club to help with daily garden maintenance.

Thonnings – along with fifth- through eighth-grade math and science teachers – – previously implemented a Grow It! project as a collaborative, technology-centered, math-science, four-grade-level pilot project. Activities included two cold frames in which flats of spinach, romaine and buttercrunch lettuce were planted.

Thonnings’ application was chosen by a panel of experts from the areas of food policy, botany and community gardening. The concept is in line with the City of Cleveland’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 project, a movement that aims to increase the percentage of locally produced food.

For more information on the Gardens That Teach program, visit www.gardensthatteach.org.


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