Tucked away on the roof of Rock Island High School is a small greenhouse that’s getting a new life.
Up until now, the science department has filled it desert plants. But after a scrubbing and fresh coat of paint, it’s ready to house the new seedlings for the school’s garden.
“It’s just to get kids involved in a self-sustained garden in a self-sustained situtation where now they have the power to do some things,” said science teacher Andy Campbell, who helped start the school’s garden last year.
Campbell said the garden fills a once abandoned lot and the students harvested more than 300 lbs. of food last fall.
All of it was donated to a local church and the Rocky Resource Room, where students and their families can pick up clothing and food for free.
“It was amazing, honestly, knowing that we’re actually making a difference and knowing we’re actually able to help people,” said Rock Island High School senior Corina Castaneda. “I mean, who honestly gets that opportunity every day?”
Campbell said they got the program running with the help of Sprouting Minds — a non profit that gets kids involved in gardening.
Over the next several years, Campbell hopes the garden becomes completely student-run. He also wants to host a farm-to-table night where students cook a meal for the community with the food they’ve grown.
“[The] sky’s the limit for what we’re going to do I think,” Campbell said.
Corina has been a part of the program since the start. Before last summer, she didn’t have any gardening experience. Now it’s something she wants to keep doing for the rest of her life.
“For us to make our own food and for us to give it to other people, I think that’s really crucial,” Corina said. “It’s the little things that we do that actually make it count.”
Campbell said there are plenty of lessons to learn in the garden: how to learn from mistakes and how to be patient. However, he said the biggest lesson he’s learned is about his students.
“People want to do great things,” Campbell said.”I think sometimes people see … students on their phones and technology and not paying attention to big issues. But this has really taught me that students care and at this school they really care a lot about what’s going on and they care a lot about each other.”