July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Students at EHS use greenhouse to grow plants to give seniors

ELYRIA — The new Elyria High School has a lot of little extra elements that continue to bring out new skills in students.

Sophomore Brent Piazza and special education teacher Nancy Kerchmar and waters a potted plant Thursday for the Smiles for Seniors program. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Sophomore Brent Piazza and special education teacher Nancy Kerchmar and waters a potted plant Thursday for the Smiles for Seniors program. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Thursday, tucked away on the second floor of the new building, four students were digging away in potting soil and planting flowers in the school’s greenhouse.

Elyria High has a greenhouse? Yes, and it is used by science students and others for more hands-on experience.

The greenhouse was a part of the architect’s designs from the very beginning but has not been touted like the extensive geothermal heating and cooling system, state-of-the-art media center or the Rathskeller lounge that will be in the Washington Building.

Still, for students in the occupations class at Elyria, the greenhouse is the perfect place for them to let their Smiles for Seniors program blossom.

Funded with a $300 grant from the Community Foundation, the program was designed by educational technician Nancy Kerchmar as a hands-on component to the class, which focuses on employment after high school for students with disabilities. It wraps up today with the delivery of more than two dozen potted plants to residents of Wesleyan Village.

“We had this vision of making planters for seniors who don’t get regular visitors as a way of brightening their day,” Kerchmar said. “For this project, we just purchased plants and supplies and told the students to let their imaginations run wild with what they thought the planters should look like. The occupations class is about learning the life skills related to getting a job.”

Several plants for the project were donated by Mark Piazza of Piazza’s Gulf Road Greenhouse. His son, Brent Piazza, is a student in the class. But don’t assume that means he was a natural.

“I don’t work in the greenhouse,” he said. “It’s too hot for me. In the summer I have a good excuse — the heat. In the winter, I don’t have an excuse, but I still don’t work in the greenhouse.”

He looked like a professional Thursday as he dug deep into a pot of soil to place a flower.

Working nearby was fellow student Bowen Faught, 17. He said he had plenty of experience working with plants. Growing up, he and his mother could often be found putting flowers in pots or working seeds into the ground for a garden.

Bowen said he hopes to get a job working with a landscaper after high school.

“With flowers, everything just gets bigger and pretty with time,” he said as he stepped back to admire his work. “You can start with a small flower in the beginning of spring and by the end of summer you have this huge blossom.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.