By David Fleet
Goodrich- As Martian Cross Country teammates, seniors Jared Hernandez and Evan Bierkamp log hundreds of miles each year. A section of their daily treks passed the dilapidated remnants of a greenhouse just south of Oaktree Elementary School.
Constructed about 15 years ago, the 96-feet-by-20 structure which featured a steel frame and a translucent polyvinyl covering was originally a work place for students to utilize a hands-on classroom. However, a series of wind storms, including a nearby Atlas Township tornado in 2014, devastated the one-time outdoor covered classroom used for science classes.
“We passed that old greenhouse all the time,” said Hernandez. “We just looked at it long enough and finally one day decided to do something about it. We made a plan.”
So, Hernandez and Bierkamp, along with senior Daniel Wood, combined their senior Capstone project. When complete, it will ultimately continue to enhance science in the school years after they have graduated. The Capstone project was started in 2013 and is a final project that any student enrolled in a high school English class must complete to graduate. Capstone allows students to apply all they learned to a final meaningful project.
The students, along with high school cross country coach Al Warden, started the greenhouse rebuilding project last November.
“The kids took off their running shoes and instead donated about 100 hours of their own time for this project in all kinds of weather,” said Warden. “We also looked for support from the community and school—it could be a very costly project.”
The greenhouse team created a budget and inventory for the project that included ventilation fans, a furnace, and hundreds of yards of polyvinyl covering.
“Much of the metal frame was bent from the storm,” added Warden. “Cost was a factor but we discovered much of the material around the school district that was going to be discarded.”
For example, the end walls of the structure were constructed with treated decking that was no longer needed and thanks to a local company the 200,000 BTU natural gas furnace to keep the greenhouse warm in the cooler months was donated.
James Jacobs, sales consultant for DM Burr Heating & Cooling, 3449 Miller Road, Flint, said it’s all about giving back.
“We are a big part of the community,” said Jacobs. “David (Burr) is a local resident and donated the furnace for the greenhouse.”
After about for months of work the greenhouse and the students Capstone project is nearing completion.
“Evan and I remember growing plants in the greenhouse here at Oaktree,”said Hernandez. “We learned about photosynthesis here. The science classes for years to come will now be hands-on rather than just reading about plants in a textbook.”
The Oaktree Greenhouse project will be the focus of the Spotlight feature at the 6:30 p.m., Feb. 26 school board meeting.
By David Fleet