A new building has gone up on the Lanesboro school grounds and, like all school buildings, it has a purpose of educating students. However, this 20-feet by 40-feet building will be focusing not on instructing students in math and writing, but on gardening and the biology of plants.

Through grant funding from the Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council (MAELC) Lanesboro High School has been able to construct and develop a greenhouse for both classroom and potentially commercial purposes.

Agriculture teacher Tim Willette is excited about the new hands-on opportunities that will be created through the completion of the greenhouse project and has been a major part of the driving force behind providing this opportunity to Lanesboro students.

Having a school greenhouse was something that Lanesboro has been considering. After receiving school board approval, Willette researched greenhouse companies and had discussions with various schools who already have greenhouses to determine the size Lanesboro would be able to manage.

The MAELC Quality Program grant gave the school $12,250 for construction costs that were contracted out of Loretto, Minn. The greenhouse is located behind the school building on additional property the district owns.

Willette shared that having a school greenhouse is becoming a more common thing around the state, sharing that local schools, like Chatfield, LeRoy and Kingsland that already have them, are able to offer more opportunities to their students.

Willette has been teaching a horticulture class for two years that will be significantly affected by the greenhouse. "I think the greenhouse will create a more diverse program of classes that we could offer," stated Willette. "Students that weren't aware of something they liked doing might find it in the greenhouse."

The hands-on experience is the most obvious benefit; students will be able to work with actual plants, learning how to take care of them and develop skills they could use to maintain their own personal gardens. Willette is also the advisor for the Lanesboro FFA, an organization that will benefit a lot from the greenhouse. Certain competitions in FFA relate to floriculture and nursery/landscape, topics that can be understood so much better in a greenhouse.

The greenhouse could also become a hub for community involvement as well, although for what specifically, Willette can't know right now. "There may be opportunities for community volunteers to come in and help out," shared Willette. "Right now, we need to figure out what direction we're going with this."

He hopes the greenhouse will be fully operational by the end of the school year. The concrete foundation was poured around Thanksgiving last year and the main structure has been going up since December. Since that part is still undergoing completion, plumbing, electric and heating will need to get done soon afterward.

Willette has also been thinking about what will go in the greenhouse for plants. According to the curriculum he has developed so far, Willette will be focusing on lab experiments with soil and plant propagation, with some dabbling in vegetable gardening and handling starter plants.

He shared the school has received interest from local bed and breakfast businesses for hanging flower baskets that could be used for decoration. Not only could the greenhouse raise money for the school, it could also provide food for the cafeteria.

Willette shared some schools actually use fresh produce from their school greenhouse in their food service, although Willette isn't sure if that would be one of the purposes of Lanesboro's.

"Our primary focus is on the classes and providing opportunities to our students through this greenhouse," he concluded.