LZ Greenhouse: Where are they now?
Written by Rinna Kim, 2020-21 Foundation Intern, LZHS Senior
In 2015, the District 95 Educational Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to fund/start
up the LZ Greenhouse at Lake Zurich High School (LZHS). Continue reading to
learn more about the Greenhouse’s big strides since 2015!
Through the LZ Greenhouse, over 20 students in the Life Skills High School Class at Lake Zurich High School and Transitional Program (ages 18-21) are able to develop valuable learning skills that adhere to the everyday demands of adult, independent living. The students do everything from planting vegetables, drying herbs, and cooking the fully grown vegetables in the classroom to learn general vocational and leisure skills that will be useful in the years to come.
Every May, the Greenhouse hosts an organized plant sale where the students sell plants to staff and parents–an event that fosters a lot of excitement and preparation. The big annual plant sale has been immensely successful in the past few years as they ultimately earn an average of $1,000 that is used to purchase more supplies to support the Greenhouse. By getting experience from the plant sale revolving around advertising and selling, the event provides a beneficial experience to the students while promoting the Greenhouse simultaneously.
Greenhouse's Plant Sale in 2019
The Greenhouse’s Supporters
Additionally, there are multiple businesses and organizations/volunteers, besides the Foundation, that support the Greenhouse and its constructive goals of providing meaningful experience to the students. For instance, Casper True Value Hardware in Lake Zurich donates seed packets to the Greenhouse every year and Home Depot donates composting bins that the students use to learn how to compost table scraps. Even Master Gardeners from the University of Illinois’s Extension Program connect with the students weekly and teach them the most effective ways to produce fruitful plants and vegetables. Due to the pandemic, the students have not been able to use the Greenhouse in the same capacity as in the recent past; however, there were about 100 plants growing in the greenhouse last March when schools closed. What did they do with the plants, you may ask? LZHS Special Education teacher, Ms. Annamarie Bader, took the liberty to take the plants to her home and distribute them to students and parents!
The grant from the Foundation acted as a true piece of encouragement for the Special Education program at LZHS. After noticing that other high schools had a greenhouse for their special education students, several teachers, including Ms. Bader, applied for a grant from a company called Seeds of Change–they did not end up getting it. Thankfully, with the encouragement from the Assistant Superintendent-Student Services at the time, Dr. Susan Coleman, they applied for the grant from the Foundation and received full funding! The Greenhouse’s impact on the students thus far is immeasurable. The high school’s Occupational therapist and the selfless volunteers and teachers dedicate their time and energy to being a part of this wonderful program that strives to create a sense of greater independence within the students. Collaboration is an integral part of seeing growth in the students, and the consistent exposure to gardening, nutrition, and involvement in the Lake Zurich community has proven that lifelong learning experiences are present in the Greenhouse.
Grand Opening of the Greenhouse
The Future of The Greenhouse
In the future, the teachers and volunteers at the Greenhouse hope to return to work once it is safe. The district built a garden bed outside the Greenhouse last year for use during the summer months (it gets very hot in the Greenhouse) and the outdoor experience has been instrumental for a continued learning experience when the weather gets warmer. They also desire to have more connections within the community, whether that be obtaining a good job site for the students at a nursery or general connections to community-members! In addition, smaller projects such as creating a spice packet business for Thanksgiving and growing fresh herbs to sell throughout the year are also in the works.
A Few Moments of Success
Annamarie Bader (LZHS Special Education Teacher): “A couple of years ago I had a student who was very cautious about touching the soil to plant. Because of sensory issues that she had there was no way she would go near it, not even with gloves on. By the end of the year, that student was able to work with the soil and grew to enjoy it!”
Shannon Mix (LZHS Special Education Teacher): […] “when I was interviewing for my job at Lake Zurich I was looking into the special education department and came across the Greenhouse. [...] When I was hired and received my tour of the school in May of 2018 it was the same day the students were preparing for their [plant] sale that spring. It was awesome to get a glimpse of the collaborative effort […] [they] were excited and knowledgeable when showing me around. Throughout my first year of teaching, I was able to [visit] the Greenhouse weekly with my students and experience my first plant sale in the spring of 2019. It feels like a full-circle experience for me.”
Brittany Yates (LZHS Special Education/Resource Teacher): “My first year was when the Greenhouse was being built! I will never forget the excitement my students felt during the opening event! [...] My favorite memory was during our first plant sale and our students did a great job talking with teachers and parents about the different plants we grew and [were] selling!”
All in all, the LZ Greenhouse proves to be immensely beneficial to the students by providing them with hands-on experience that teaches valuable life lessons, works on elevating communication skills and confidence in themselves, as well as practices fine motor skills. With the help from the businesses and organizations previously mentioned, plus many more supporters throughout the years, the Greenhouse remains a magical place where growth, in more ways than one, is celebrated.