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Hingham High to build $80,000 greenhouse

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 21, 2013 06:33 PM

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Four years after receiving a $20,000 grant from National Geographic and SunChips, Hingham High School is finally getting ready to build a greenhouse.

On Monday night, School Committee members will look at potential bids for building the foundation for the roughly $80,000 project. Shortly thereafter, a company will come in to assemble the greenhouse, the parts for which have already arrived in the school.

“We should finally see this thing come to fruition,” said Assistant Principal Rick Swanson, who oversees sustainability programming at Hingham High.

Hopes are to have the greenhouse constructed by late November or early December.

The project has gone through many iterations since Hingham High science teachers applied for the science grant in spring 2009. Yet staff and students were quick to realize their dreams for a greenhouse would cost far more than $20,000, and fundraising efforts began.

Though funding was slow to trickle in, an anonymous donation of $50,000 in 2011 put the $100,000 project back on track. Fundraising efforts continued to make up the $20,000 difference, but little headway was made.

Science Director Katie Roberts took over the effort in 2012, and since then the plan has been reworked to fit within an $80,000 budget.

In addition to changing the size of the structure, plans were altered to bring the 20 by 36 foot building to an interior courtyard of the school off of the cafeteria, rather than at the front of the school building.

The change eliminated structural and logistical challenges the project was having, and resulted in cost savings, Roberts said.

“You have a vision and you have a budget, but you have to work within your budge while staying true to your vision,” Roberts said.

The focus has also shifted from plant propagation and photosynthesis to sustainable food production. The greenhouse will also work with the school’s composting program.

Soil made from composted food will be used within the greenhouse to grow new food. Once seedlings take inside the greenhouse, they will be moved to raised beds inside the courtyard in the spring, started last year with the help of Holly Hill Farms.

Science teachers are also working with STEM Garden Institute, out of Milton, to explore hydroponic growing, or growing plants without the use of soil. Teachers have already begun exploring those avenues in the classroom to be ready when the greenhouse is constructed.

All grown food will be used in the school’s cafeteria.

For students, the project has been a pipe dream, one many classes have participated in in some respect before graduating. Swanson noted that the timing was difficult to try to raise funds for the project.

“It’s been hard to keep this on the agenda when we’re building a new elementary school, middle school, and then fields project,” Swanson said. “Keeping this on the agenda at all has been a battle…it required a lot of patience and persistence.”

Yet at this final stage, Swanson said it will be rewarding to usher kids into the new program.

“It’s going to be a great asset for our school and to the science program,” he said.

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