Warner School’s student body represents a typical cross-section of life in rural Southwestern Alberta. Many of the students come from farm families, and though agriculture and sustainability play an important role for the community, they aren’t necessarily subjects that can be taught with the straightforwardness of English or Math. The school, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014 and completed a full-scale renovation and modernization project in June of last year, felt there was still an opportunity for growth—literally.
The idea for a school greenhouse had been floating around for a little while, notes Warner School Principal David LeGrandeur. It gained more steam after the renovation was completed—thanks in part to a recent graduate of Warner School, Holden H. “Holden is an active member of our community, taking part in the 4-H Club and volunteering at [Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Museum in Warner],” says LeGrandeur. This project was a natural extension of those activities, combining a curiosity about agricultural sciences—one no doubt shared by many students—with a community-enhancing initiative.
With LeGrandeur’s guidance, Holden applied successfully to the Community Foundation’s Youth in Action Grants Program, receiving $2,000 toward the greenhouse project. LeGrandeur notes that fundraising efforts involved partnerships with other local organizations. In total, Holden and the school were able to raise the $17,000 needed to complete the project. As far as funding opportunities go, LeGrandeur says that the Youth in Action grant is unique. “Students get an idea of what grant writing is like, which introduces them to the idea of philanthropy.”
The greenhouse will have a wide variety of applications, not just for the school, but for the community of Warner as well. “We’re planning curriculum for the greenhouse, as a way to show students that agriculture and sustainability are viable career paths,” says LeGrandeur. Acknowledging that fewer youth are considering futures in the farming industry, LeGrandeur points to the important role agricultural sciences play in the local economy—as well as for the community itself—as the basis for making these classes available.
Warner School’s ideas for the greenhouse include an extracurricular club and combining agriculture and small business so that students can work with community members and agricultural experts to strengthen their comprehension of agricultural sciences. Ultraviolet light fixtures will enable year-round cultivation, infusing both the school and the village with a fresh supply of local produce, even during the winter months. The school also plans to grow and sell flowers for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and other holidays and special events, and use the revenue to support the greenhouse’s continued operation. As the school teaches Kindergarten through to grade 12, developing community through shared experiences is also an important outcome of the greenhouse project. According to Holden, the greenhouse “will be a great way for students young and old to bond with one another.”
Though Holden will miss out on the benefits of a fully functional greenhouse classroom due to his recent graduation, current and future students of Warner School will be able to reap the benefits of practicing sustainable agriculture. With any luck, this greenhouse will help to raise a crop of next-generation local farmers, about which LeGrandeur is optimistic. “If we can encourage [students] to get involved at a young age, it opens up a wide number of possibilities,” even if they end up going in a different direction, he says. One thing remains clear for Warner School’s student body, however: vibrant growth won’t be limited to the minds of the students.