Funding from both state career and technology funds has gifted the Van Alstyne Independent School District with a new greenhouse, one of several facility improvements discussed during the regularly scheduled VAISD board meeting on Nov. 14.

VAISD Superintendent John Spies said the high school agriculture department anticipates having the students use the greenhouse heavily over the winter, with an agriculture class scheduled to start next year. Biology teacher Ella Burkhalter, who is in charge of overseeing the greenhouse usage, listed the numerous educational and communal advantages it directly provides.

“We will grow various flowers, fruits, vegetable, and herbs,” Burkhalter said. “It will be a place for ninth grade students to learn about pollination, photosynthesis, genetics, ecology and plant systems.”

Burkhalter explained that the greenhouse enables chemistry students to study soil, water chemistry and the effects of pH on flowers, while physics students will be able to can their produce to investigate concepts such as ideal gas laws. Additionally the greenhouse will be open to elementary and middle schoolers for an assortment of hands-on activities, like plant identification. The greenhouse will also be employed to harvest fresh produce and herbs that will be used by the Culinary Arts program.

Spies added that a portion of the plants grown over the winter will be transferred to the middle and elementary school gardens. Each elementary school grade level has been tasked with raising a personal garden, a project funded by the district’s Education Foundation in memory of the tragic passing of a brother and sister in a house fire last year.

The presence of the greenhouse has also inspired the creation of the Society of Young Botanists. Burkhalter explained the goals of the club, stating its purpose is to further the education of fields related to: “gardening, horticulture, botany, floral design, landscape design, environmental awareness, conservation of natural resources, civic beautification, nature studies, and instilling in our youth the love of gardening and respect for the environment.”

Through fundraising, the club aims to eventually establish an outdoor garden large enough to provide a fresh farmers market for the community. Further greenhouse goals include the inclusion of hydroponics, composting and rain harvesting in the future.

Other upgrades in the VAISD include the purchasing of a new bus and the resurfacing of the school tennis courts.