Growing Skills Through Hands-On Learning

Perhaps hands-on learning has never been more engaging or more appreciated than in the 2020/2021 school year of digitized learning. The students in Deer Park High School’s career and technical education floral and horticulture classes are getting their hands in soil and sowing seeds for their future career successes. 

Class instructor Erica Whitmore oversees 21 students in the high school’s greenhouse. In mid-February, the youth began germinating seeds for their spring plant sale, which is tentatively scheduled for April 23rd and 24th. At this year’s spring plant sale, the students will offer a mix of vegetable and herb starts, annuals, and hanging baskets. “The classes are valuable for students’ knowledge of plant production in the sense that they can take these skills and apply them at home with their families, or future careers,” Whitmore said.  She added that the students are learning to grow both edible and ornamental plants. 

Each student learns to germinate seeds, transfer seedlings into larger pots, fertilize, water, and care for the plants. They keep detailed records of both the successes and failures, and lastly, learn to advertise and market their product to the public. “There are also the skills of maintenance, care of the plants, how photosynthesis works for proper growth, understanding plant disease…problem solving, and record keeping,” she added. 

Whitmore told us that two older students are in charge of the greenhouse’s overall management. Both the floriculture and horticulture classes at the high school run as an articulated class credit through Spokane Community College’s horticulture program. This means the students can get college credit while taking this high school class. 

Whitmore teaches various agriculture classes at the high school, and oversees 114 students in her Career and Technical Education Agriculture classes. Of these students, 33 are also members of the Deer Park FFA, an additional leadership program offered to agriculture students. She said this school year in particular her students’ appreciation for hands-on learning is apparent. Being in the greenhouse is a mood lifter. “I’m hearing things like, ‘I’m so happy to be in here, I get to move and do something,’ and ‘I get to water and plant.’ It’s a huge mind break for them. They’re expressing gratefulness.”

Photos Provided by Erica Whitmore.

Featured Image Caption:  Luci Cowan and Daniel Ware are planting in the greenhouse.

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