Washington High School Agriculture Department receives $25,000 grant

The Washington High School Agriculture Education Department has received a $25,000 grant from a Monsanto company grant program called America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education. The grant was awarded for the construction of a 1,200 square foot greenhouse for use by the school’s plant science, horticulture, food science, and general science classes.

Trent Steinhart, Washington High School Agriscience instructor and FFA adviser, wrote the grant application that produced the award.

“I had submitted a grant last year that was unsuccessful. The Monsanto people got back to me and told me what was missing and how to make it better. I took some webinars they provided. This year, I did a better job of telling them what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it,” he said.

Steinhart submitted a plan to build the greenhouse on some open space west of the high school. The greenhouse will be an arched structure supporting twin-wall polycarbonate panes that allow sunlight to reach the plants. The building will measure 28 feet wide by 42 feet long.

“We’ll have potting tables, growing benches, a natural gas heater and water lines,” he said.

Steinhart envisions growing both flowers and vegetables in the greenhouse.

“We’ll put the plants up for sale each year. Some of the costs of the learning experience will be paid for in plant sales,” he said.

The greenhouse offers a valuable learning tool for students, he said, and is a good extension of the Agscience Department. Steinhart said he managed school greenhouses at Tri-County and North Polk school districts.

“It expands what we can do in a class. We can go from growing three or four plants in a class to growing several hundred plants,” he said. “There aren’t likely to be any space limitations. We can grow vertically with hanging baskets as well as horizontally on tables.”

The students most likely to use the greenhouse are those in the Agronomy and Plant Science classes. But it will not be limited to those students.

“It will be available to everyone that wants to do a project,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s hands-on. There is always something for everyone to do. We can rotate jobs and responsibilities.”

Steinhart said they plan to have the structure up before Christmas and fully functional in February. He expects to have plants for sale in April or May.

Steninhart said the original nomination for a grant had to come from local farmers who use Monsanto products. In the program, farmers can nominate their local public school district from January to April. After a school district receives its first nomination, the Monsanto Fund notifies them and encourages them to develop a project and submit an application that enhances math and/or science education in their district. Grant applications are due by April 15.

The grant program, America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, was introduced in 2011 to partner with farmers to support their local school districts. The program offers farmers the opportunity to nominate rural public school districts to compete for merit-based STEM grants of either $10,000 or $25,000. Washington Agriculture Education has received this grant for the purpose of a 1,200 square foot greenhouse to be used in plant science, horticulture, food science, and general science classes.

Once all of the school district applications are submitted, a panel of math and science teachers reviews each application and selects finalists. Then the Farmer Advisory Council, composed of farmers from across the U.S., reviews and selects the winning grant applications from a pool of finalists. Grant applications will be judged based on the merit of the application, need and community support.