After two years of raising funds and constructing a new greenhouse, Alternative Education students at Mount View High School are eager to open for business this spring. A strong component of the alternative program’s project-based education involves student-management of a greenhouse seedling program.

Every spring, students plant and grow seeds from many varieties of vegetables, herbs, melons, annuals, and perennials (many of which are heirloom varieties). Students are responsible for plant care, advertising, sales, inventory, filling and delivering orders (to staff), and customer relations. Two student co-managers oversee the quality control of greenhouse operations and are rotated each week to allow every student a leadership opportunity. Each student participates in the seedling program while concurrently meeting individual academic requirements in the classroom. In addition to public sales, large quantities of flower and produce seedlings are donated to local food pantries and garden clubs every June.

“I want to be an organic farmer,” says Jesse Caldwell, class of 2012, “and this will help me get there.”

With the valuable experience gained through the greenhouse project, Jesse and his classmates are learning skills that will increase employability in the green industry or toward future entrepreneurial efforts. The project provides an authentic learning experience through integration with environmental ethics and plant and soil science curriculum.

“It’s a fun learning experience and it brings us together as a team,” says Chris Cole, class of 2011.

The new 30-foot by 48-foot structure was made possible by contributions from local community members and organizations and a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. In addition to the traditional offerings, this year there will be many new varieties. The greenhouse opens Monday, May 16, and will remain open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. until June 3. For more information contact Alternative Education teacher Travis Collins at tcollins@rsu3.org.