SNYDER, Texas (NEWS RELEASE) — The following is a news release from Snyder ISD:
Moving beyond pen and paper to more authentic learning experiences helps students learn while preparing for life after high school. In the Spring of 2020, school leaders at Snyder ISD saw an opportunity to take the students’ educational experience to the next level. A local greenhouse business located at the corner of the two main streets in town had closed several years prior, and the vacant property had been for sale since the closure.
“As a district, we have been aggressively exploring opportunities to develop student-based enterprises, and it was clear that the greenhouse property provided an excellent foundation for the growth of multiple student-based enterprises,” said Dr. Eddie Bland, Superintendent of Schools. “We are fortunate to have a school board that understands the importance of the authentic learning experiences that can come from this program. Our school board is to be congratulated for fully supporting the district’s investment in this property and the affiliated programs that will benefit our students and community”.
When Snyder ISD began developing student-based enterprise programs, nothing could prepare them for what was in store. “When the pandemic hit, we were in the beginning stages developing our programs. Students were ready to launch everything from metalworks to t-shirt and 3D printing businesses. A newly constructed makerspace would serve as a hub for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop their ideas,” said Dr. Rachael McClain, Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Innovation for Snyder ISD.
After purchasing the property, the district needed to find the right person to lead this program, and they found the perfect person in McKenna Jenkins. McKenna is a Snyder High School alumni and graduate of Texas Tech’s Plant & Soil Science Program. “We are excited about McKenna joining our district, and we are confident that with her leadership, our students will benefit from a unique classroom environment while gaining valuable work experience,” said Dr. Bland.
Marketing students took on the task of naming the greenhouse. After studying the fundamentals of branding, developing logo design ideas, and collaborating with industry professionals, the students decided on the name “Evergreen.” The name Evergreen represents the goal for the greenhouse: an everlasting opportunity for student growth and success.
While marketing students worked on the business’s name and branding, Jenkins’ plant science students worked on the inventory. “In November, we opened up the greenhouse to the community for an overwintering program. We watered, fertilized, and pruned the plants in exchange for a reasonable fee and the opportunity to take cuttings for propagation,” said Jenkins. Students researched various growing methods and conducted experiments using heating mats, growth regulators, different fertilizers and soil, water sources (well vs. city), and watering styles. They have since filled the greenhouse wall to wall.
A generous donation from the Snyder Education Foundation and Atmos Energy allowed for the purchase of an aquaponics unit. In addition to providing various herbs and vegetables for sale, the aquaponics unit provides students with a deeper understanding of the balance in nature. “We were so grateful to work with Atmos Energy and the Snyder Education Foundation to receive a grant that allowed us to purchase the commercial unit. We can grow over 500 heads of organic leafy greens yearly. The fish in the system work symbiotically with the plants to provide nutrients to the plants, while the plants provide purified water to the fish.” Jenkins said.
“Not only will the greenhouse be used to allow students within SISD to gain hands-on experience in plant science, but they will also learn about the management of retail locations, advertising, marketing, customer service, and safety,” Jenkins said. The other student-based enterprise programs are moving forward as well. “Evergreen will feature a retail space for other student-led businesses to sell their products to the public,” said McClain. “The greenhouse has opened doors to multiple projects that will benefit our students and, ultimately, the entire community.”
“The best way to prepare students to transition to life after high school is to offer authentic learning experiences that support both college and career pathways. Student-based enterprises like Evergreen allow students to learn by literally getting their hands dirty,” said McClain. “In addition to plant science careers, our student interns are preparing for post-secondary options in entrepreneurship, education, traditional and social media marketing, and management. As part of the P-TECH high school experience, all students in our P-TECH pathways will graduate with work-based learning experience, dual credit in academic and career classes, and/or industry-based certifications.”
Students in life skills classes visit the greenhouse weekly for vocational training and hands-on learning. Evergreen will also host field trips for area students; currently, they have over twenty field trips on the books.
Evergreen Research & Retail Greenhouse, staffed with student interns, will open to the public on April 12, 2021. Hours will be Monday-Friday 9 am – 5 pm and the first Saturday of every month from 9 am – 12 pm. Evergreen is located behind CVS on the corner of College Ave. and 37th St. in Snyder, Texas.
The mission of SISD is to equip everyone to pursue excellence every day. Snyder ISD serves approximately 2,500 students, employs almost 400 staff members, and is located in Snyder, Texas. From a dual-language program for primary school students to the P-TECH High School, SISD is proud to offer an array of opportunities for both students and educators.
Watch a video of a student field trip to Evergreen here: https://youtu.be/8AzlTwaFYtI
Find Evergreen on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvergreenSISD
(News release from the Snyder Independent School District)