Students and staff at Hickerson Elementary will be cultivating more than their minds next school year thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Tennessee STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Innovation Network. The funds will go toward building a greenhouse for school-wide use.
Hickerson nurse Angela Ridner wrote the grant.
“We decided a greenhouse would be great for that grant because it’s all about energy and using the sunlight and we can incorporate STEM into that too,” said Ridner.
All students would use the space. Third, fourth and fifth graders would become mentors for the younger grades and teach them how to grow and care for the greenery. The greenhouse will provide a hands-on classroom where younger kids and can learn where food comes from, older kids can learn the science behind how things grow.
Ridner would love to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, zucchini, squash and possibly strawberries. Her dream would be to grow pumpkins and sell them as a school fundraiser, but she is unsure if they will have enough room for that.
Kids will also be able to try the freshly grown produce once it is ready to be picked. If the harvest yields more than the kids can try, Ridner said it’s possible they will give what is grown away as a community service project or sell it.
The greenhouse location is being planned – principal Jimmy Anderson is working with maintenance staff. The idea is so the greenhouse won’t interfere with gas lines, septic, or future building plans for the school, but it close to a water source. It will be around 40x60 feet in size.
Ridner hopes it will be up and running by August 2019.
About the grant
The TVA awarded $580,000 in grants to 161 schools and educators to develop STEM programs across the Tennessee Valley.
The grant provided funding up to $5,000 that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic and career development and community problem solving.