Greenhouse after-school program sparks adventure for Ridgeview Elementary students |

Greenhouse after-school program sparks adventure for Ridgeview Elementary students

Program is among several PAC-sponsored after-school sessions this school year

Michael Neary

Kindergartner Preston Garcia examines a plant held by teacher Rhonda Counts at Ridgeview Elementary School. Preston's older sister, second-grader Brooklyn Garcia, looks over his shoulder.
Michael Neary

— When students in Ridgeview Elementary School's Greenhouse After-School Program study plants, they end up seeing much more than just … plants. Third-grader Kayden Grinolds, for instance, spotted a ladybug milling around in the soil of her plant, and it launched her into a reflection about a possible career.

"I want to be a veterinarian and study animals," Kayden said, and then she thought for a few moments and added: "I remember I had an old dog, and I really liked him."

Kayden was among about 20 students taking the Parent-Advisory-Council-sponsored greenhouse class, which has been meeting for the last several Thursdays. It's one of several PAC-sponsored after-school classes that, along with Spanish and art, have been offered this year at Ridgeview Elementary.

Mindy Baker, president of the Parent Advisory Council at Ridgeview, said the desire for a language class at the elementary-school level spurred the effort to create these after-school sessions. The other classes emerged after families filled out surveys about the sorts of offerings they'd like to see.

Staff members at Ridgeview and beyond — including Moffat County High School Spanish Teacher Jessica Knez — have been presenting the courses.

Recommended Stories For You

"It gives you the opportunity to offer (students) something outside of what they normally have in their classes," Baker said.

She also noted the way optional after-school courses can change the atmosphere in a classroom for students.

"It's not something that they're having to sit through," she said. "They're going to have a whole different energy."

Baker said the PAC-sponsored after-school classes are slated to continue next school year.

This past Thursday, in the greenhouse class, about 20 students were preparing a Mother's Day plant, drawing from a range of plant types that included marigolds, petunias and lobelias. Fifth-grade Ridgeview Elementary Teacher Rhonda Counts leads the class, receiving help during most sessions from second-grade teacher Jenn Stagner and first-grade teacher Katie Wheeler.

Counts described the way live, growing plants can generate excitement among students.

"If we had a book in front of us, they would not be that interested," she said.

The students met in a classroom at Ridgeview on Thursday, but they've also gone to the high school, and next week they're planning on visiting an area greenhouse.

"We want them to know that plants are fun and they're pretty — and also that it's actually an industry," Counts said.

As Counts talked to the students about the plants, she coaxed them to identify components. She said she likes them to examine the cells closely, marking the difference between plant and animal cells. On Thursday she gave hints about a particular kind of system within a plant.

"It's the vascular system," she told the students, "and that's the way it takes up the water."

The students working with plants seemed to enjoy the fact that they weren't just poring over diagrams or descriptions, but examining the real thing. Second-grader Brooklyn Garcia said she liked various aspects of plants — from the scents to the colors — and she recalled how the class "split open a plant and looked at it."

Brooklyn also said she had baby corn plants at home.

Wielding their magnifying glasses, students throughout the classroom talked about exploring plants as an adventure — the kind that might yield the unexpected ladybug or some other miniscule surprise.

"When you look inside with a magnifying glass, you can sometimes see the male and female parts," said second-grader Jaryd Preston. "And if you're lucky, you can sometimes see nectar."

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.