KINGSTON — Sanborn Regional High is seeking community help as it gears up to begin an 18-month process of building a school greenhouse, according to Principal Brian Stack.
Each year, Stack surveys his faculty and staff asking for suggestions about what to propose to the Sanborn Seminary Trustees, a group which funds classroom projects, and this year, nurse Karen Scanlon had a special, and ambitious, idea that immediately struck a chord.
"'Hey, what do you think about a greenhouse?'" Scanlon said she asked Stack. "And the project came up with a life of its own."
Teachers from almost every discipline sent Scanlon ideas, she said, so many that she could not fit them all into the proposal the school sent to the Trustees.
According to Scanlon, social studies teachers took an interest in the greenhouse project as an opportunity to teach about geography and food economics, math teachers saw a chance to graph plant growth rates and even art classes could draw inspiration from and find great subjects in the variety of plant life growing in a greenhouse, to name a few.
Scanlon and Stack also see the greenhouse as an opportunity for learning about sustainability, as a place for community classes in gardening and agriculture and as an opportunity for culinary students to put together farm-to-table events for other students.
"We'd love to have this being used off hours, in the evenings, for community classes, all year round," Scanlon said.
The project is co-sponsored by the Sanborn Seminary Trustees, Stack explained, a group of alumni who use leftover monies from the old Sanborn Seminary budget to promote interactive learning for current students.
"In the past four years alone, the Trustees have funded nearly $80,000 in classroom grants," Stack wrote in a letter to Superintendent Brian Blake.
The Trustees have previously funded projects such as hive construction for raising bees, an example of the kind of involved learning Stack wants for students. For this project, the Trustees have already committed to $60,000, Stack said.
"They've had a longstanding thing where they give money every year — and they're a group of people, not all of them live right here in the community, but they all went to Sanborn years ago," Stack said.
"They want to support things that are out of the budget ... that get kids really interacting with their learning in some way," he added.
Scanlon explained that her initial idea came from her own personal experience of discovering gardening and outdoor activities.
"My parents weren't that, they weren't campers, and then I married a man who likes to camp and hike, and then not 'til more in my late adult years did I get exposed to gardening," Scanlon explained.
"I love it, I look at that and think 'this is what I want to retire to do,'" she added.
Stack and Scanlon, along with the other authors of the proposal, have already received at least one quote from a greenhouse company.
The pair explained that they had visited a school in North Hampton where students had access to a large greenhouse, which all students had a chance to use each year across grade levels.
The pair said they hope to use the building as inspiration for Sanborn's own project, as more than just "plastic and pipes," something solid and long-lasting. Stack noted that the Library Lawn is already suited to expansion, as well.
"Our vision is the community will rally around helping us put this up. Landscaper's Depot is already saying 'Oh my gosh, how can we help, we want to be a partner,'" Stack explained, thankful for their interest.
The project will still require additional funding, Stack said, and has recently received approval from the Sanborn Regional District School Board to move forward.
According to Scanlon, advocates of the project aim to avoid making it a burden on the school district by seeking funds outside of the school system.
"We need to fundraise and to meet the other financial obligations because this is something we don't want to make as a burden to the school district, we want to make it an asset to the district — not costing the taxpayers of the district," Scanlon said.
"So basically, we need to have a group of people — now that we have a donor that's willing to put up about half the money — obviously we have to fundraise about half of what we're going to need. We already got school board approval to continue with planning the project," Stack said.
Stack added that the project will be looking for volunteers to help with logistics, business and eventually the construction of the building itself, and that they intend to hire a project manager.
The next step will be an informational meeting on a Greenhouse Committee on Feb. 16 at Sanborn Regional High's library from 2:30-4 p.m. Stack said that advocates are eyeing a spring 2018 completion date for the addition.
"The committee will work to involve a variety of local individuals, community organizations, and businesses in the building project as well as to foster the ongoing support of greenhouse programming once the project is complete," a Sanborn Regional High School statement said.
"We want it to be something sustainable — 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we want the greenhouse to be a fixture in the school and the community," Stack said.