CTE students get hands dirty at Niles’ East Main Gardens

Published 11:19 am Thursday, May 5, 2016

Leader photos/CRAIG HAUPERT FRONT PAGE: Maria Medellin inspects yellow marigolds in the greenhouse at East Main Gardens in Niles Wednesday morning.

Leader photos/CRAIG HAUPERT — Maria Medellin inspects yellow marigolds in the greenhouse at East Main Gardens in Niles Wednesday morning.

From planting seedlings to building irrigation systems, students in the Niles-based AgriScience class are getting real world experience — and real money — in a horticulture project in partnership with East Main Gardens.

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) class, comprised of sophomores, juniors and seniors from Niles, Buchanan and Eau Claire, have been learning and working twice a week since January at the Niles garden center.

Business owner Mike Peters said he has been impressed with their work — especially the creation of an overhead irrigation system that keeps him from having to hand water some of the plants in his greenhouse.

“It saves a ton of time,” Peters said. “It worked so well I told them not to stop. I want them over all the tables.”

Teacher Tom Hurst said the students designed, built and installed the system themselves.

Students also transplanted and put into place approximately 90 percent of the 5,000 plus seedlings in the greenhouse.

Much of the students’ work is comparable to what Peters would be doing if they weren’t there — everything from pinching to customer relations to checking the plants for disease or bugs.

On Wednesday, students were graded on their ability to identify plants in a timed test.

“This has been a great relationship for us too because it gives the students real world experiences,” Hurst said. “A lot of these kids have never worked before, so we work a lot on those skills.”

Students were also responsible for creating their own projects — such as a hanging plant or potted plant — and placing it in the greenhouse.

Niles senior Katie Bell planted lettuce in a small wooden planter. She has sold approximately 20 so far, generating about $100.

“The lettuce boxes are just really great — people love them,” she said. “We are going to try and get with the French Market later.”

Peters said this was the first time he has partnered with the school.

“I hope that they come back,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for them and for us too. I think we are ahead of the game.”