Harvesting Information and Compassion: How the Academic Greenhouse at St. Thomas Extra College Enhances Curricula and Nourishes Group


At St. Thomas Extra College in Spokane, Washington, the neighborhood’s most vital service initiative revolves round rising meals. From kindergarten to eighth grade, each scholar participates in planting, sustaining, and harvesting recent produce from the college’s backyard. This nourishing harvest finds its technique to the on-site meals financial institution, benefiting households in want. Nevertheless, till not too long ago, the provision of recent produce was constrained by the out of doors rising season.

outside highyield kit

Enter the transformative energy of a Ceres academic greenhouse with an built-in aquaponics system. This modern addition permits St. Thomas Extra to domesticate recent meals year-round, breaking free from the constraints of the seasons. We had the chance to talk with the college’s former principal, Doug Banks, who’s imaginative and prescient and dedication performed a pivotal position in bringing this greenhouse mission to life.


Doug, who retired after a outstanding 42 years at STM, continues to seek the advice of and actively maintains the greenhouse. The concept of including a greenhouse blossomed as the college embraced a shift in direction of a STEM-centered method. This transformation triggered the institution of a college backyard, imparting scientific information to college students and concurrently supplying the meals financial institution.

With information handed down from the unique fifth graders who researched irrigation strategies, rising mediums, and backyard designs, college students proceed to have a tendency this out of doors backyard that produces a powerful 600-800 kilos of recent produce every summer time. 


Doug’s go to to Epcot in Florida just a few years in the past marked a turning level. Impressed by hydroponics, he solid a partnership with Spokane’s Catholic charities to fund an aquaponics greenhouse. The purpose was easy: to amplify meals manufacturing for the neighborhood’s profit.

aquaponics system- greenhouse

Because of this collaboration, the greenhouse was accomplished by late 2022, and its transformative impression was simple. College students, significantly the brand new fifth graders, embraced the chance to study and train about rising with aquaponics. From tomatoes to leafy greens, every grade planted round 500 seeds, finally harvesting lettuce in simply 4-6 weeks. This final yr each grade was concerned within the planting and harvesting, making the greenhouse a campus-wide 

Valerie Barnes, the pinnacle STEM trainer, emphasised the holistic studying expertise. College students grasp not solely the artwork of cultivation but in addition the significance of harvesting, cleansing, and packaging produce for donation. Participating college students in each side of the meals rising course of fosters enthusiasm, and the greenhouse has grow to be a cherished area they eagerly return to. The greenhouse setting has additionally supplied priceless classes, demonstrating that development can flourish even throughout winter, a time when it’s too chilly for recess.

greenhouse teaching Ph

Valerie Barnes educating a category within the greenhouse 

The journey has elevated the STEM curriculum, bridging the hole between out of doors seasonal planting and year-round meals manufacturing. Finally, St. Thomas Extra College’s journey is a testomony to the profound impression {that a} Ceres greenhouse can have on schooling and the neighborhood. By nurturing each minds and the well being of the neighborhood, the college has created a legacy that bridges studying with sustainable practices and compassion, fostering a brighter future for all. 

If you’re fascinated by a greenhouse on your college, contact us at this time! 

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