The sunny days bring more than sprouting to the flowers, vegetables and fruit at the Freshwater-Wadena Area Learning Center greenhouse, they also mean students can enjoy doing homework on picnic tables they built and take pride in their development of the garden.

With 12 students in the seventh to 10th grade program, students are operating the greenhouse for the second year. The project set three years of tasks including fencing, the greenhouse hoop, a solar panel, bees, raised beds and irrigation. Student Bryanna Kleinke said she enjoys wood burning and making picnic tables.

“They have done the work,” said teacher Janie Skoien about the students.

Students work with teacher Josh Hendrickx (left) to prepare the raised beds for planting on May 18, 2021. Students and their families can pick produce from the garden over the summer.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
Students work with teacher Josh Hendrickx (left) to prepare the raised beds for planting on May 18, 2021. Students and their families can pick produce from the garden over the summer. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Student Bryanna Kleinke adds flowers to a pot.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
Student Bryanna Kleinke adds flowers to a pot. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

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Students are able to work in the greenhouse on a flexible schedule depending on what needs to be done. The raised beds are the most recent project, which will include products for students and their families to eat during the summer. Behind the beds are rows of flowers to encourage pollination.

Students also wear beekeeping suits for honey collection and tapped trees in the spring for maple syrup. The bees’ honey and maple syrup were sold at Down Home Foods and Drastic Measures. The honey might even become part of Drastic’s beer making process.

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Within their first week of selling greenhouse products, students made over $1,000—including eight geraniums to decorate the Wadena AmericInn. The students also grow plants indoors with a tower garden and aquaponics. While indoors, students run marketing and order products and then work outdoors for the growing and building processes, as Skoien and Freshwater middle and high school lead teacher Heidi Heino described.

Skoien said students are learning aspects like measuring and calculating along with real world job skills, including working on projects they do not like as a part of the team. Student Bailey Johnson said the school offers lots of hands-on opportunities, including the planting and how to run a business.

One of the current projects in teacher Janie Skoien's classroom is building wooden shelves.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
One of the current projects in teacher Janie Skoien's classroom is building wooden shelves. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Once the final irrigation and heating pieces are added, Skoien hopes to see the greenhouse run all year-round.

With the greenhouse, students learn to reuse as many items as possible. Some flowers have been donated and we “work from that,” as Skoien described, like replanting iris bulbs for the bees.

“It’s not a perfect project, it’s a great project,” Skoien said of the greenhouse.