Nineteen college students on spring break spent Monday afternoon building a greenhouse inside Calvin Donaldson Environmental Academy.
The Winthrop University students from Rock Hill, S.C., competed against 42 of their peers for the chance to spend four days in the Scenic City volunteering their services to local organizations, agencies and programs with an environmental focus during what they called an “alternative spring break.”
“We just wanted to do something a little different with our spring break,” said Monica Jones, a junior psychology major.
The students, who drove from South Carolina through Friday’s tornado in Atlanta to get here, also did volunteer work with Reflection Riding Arboretum & Botanical Garden and Habitat for Humanity.
Monday’s greenhouse assembly was a partnership with the University of Tennessee’s Environmental Health and Justice Collaborative. Calvin Donaldson principal Valerie Brown said the 6-foot-by-8-foot greenhouse will serve as a useful tool at her school, which is an environmental science magnet.
“A lot of times children don’t know the process that plants go through, how it goes from the ground to the store,” she said. “Our kids need some concrete experiences to help them see the whole process from beginning to finish.”
Ms. Brown said originally she wanted her students to plant a garden on the school’s campus but was told contamination from flooding of nearby Chattanooga Creek made a greenhouse more feasible.
“We don’t know how contaminated it is, but it was enough to scare me,” she said.
Science lab teacher Brooke Hopkins said the greenhouse eventually would be part of an outdoor classroom at the elementary school.
“The next step is to get a compost pile out there,” she said.
Winthrop junior Glenn Spurlin III has been on alternative spring break trips before and said he was glad to do it again.
“I felt like this was more productive than going to Florida,” he said.
The student group also presented Ms. Brown with a $200 check to go toward purchasing the first plants for the greenhouse. The concrete foundation could not be poured last week because of rain, so Ms. Brown said the greenhouse would be moved outside next week.
Kimberly Davis, assistant director of UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, said organizing the project at Calvin Donaldson fits in with the mission of the collaborative.
“The idea is to teach kids about environmental sustainability,” she said.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS
The Neighborhood Environmental College will be holding community classes to raise awareness of environmental health and justice in Alton Park.
* Where: Calvin Donaldson Environmental Academy, 927 W. 37th St.
* When: March 24 through April 28, Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m.
* What: Topics include indoor/outdoor air hazards, healthy food choices and environmental stress and health
Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...