Local students build greenhouse
HANCOCK — Local high school students are putting together a new greenhouse on the Copper Country Intermediate School District campus where students will be able to grow their own crops.
The greenhouse, previously owned by Copper Country Mental Health, was located off campus above the Auto Value in Houghton. For the past 15 years, Karyn Juntunen has used it for her Community Transition Program class, where adults with moderate cognitive disability can learn skills to live on their own.
The students learn the science of planting and growing seeds. To improve a diet heavy on microwaved foods, students also learn how to steam vegetables and use fresh produce to make their own meals, Juntunen said.
In the spring, they sell the plants at a temporary greenhouse at Auto Value to raise funds for the class and to teach the students money skills.
Copper Country Mental Health donated the greenhouse to the ISD in 2017.
“Her class has been the only one using it, but we’re looking at many other classes using it,” said Juntunen’s husband, Jerry, who helped with construction. “This will be open to everybody now, and hopefully it’ll get full use once we get the heating system put in and the ventilation.”
Those uses will include science instruction, fundraising and square-foot gardening in raised beds outside the greenhouse. Severely-impaired students will also help with gardening in a summer program, Karyn Juntunen said.
“It’s one of the only school greenhouses that’s going to be able to go all year round and harvest the plants in the fall when we start again,” she said.
With the additional classes, the number of students using it will go from 10 to up to 80. Juntunen’s program will be teaching other teachers how to use it.
“It’s a great way to get the community involved in what the class is doing, and what the ISD’s doing with my program,” she said. “Now that the building’s up and the walls are up, there are so many ideas the staff are coming up with.”
The project has been a year in the making, starting last fall when MJO Construction helped pour the slab for the foundation. Rick Isaacson, who built the greenhouse originally 30 years ago, helped Jerry Juntunen put the shell up. With more funding, including a $20,000 grant from the Portage Health Foundation, they were able to order panels.
Starting in the second week of school, 27 local high school students helped in constructing the greenhouse and an adjacent storage building.
Doing both exposes students to different styles, said construction technology teacher Michael Randell. The storage building has conventional wood framing, while the greenhouse uses extruded aluminum channeling.
With the framing already up, students were helping to put panels in, Randell said.
“It’s great to see all these different schools coming together as a class and working on things,” Randell said. “They’ve been great, working hard and coming together.”
The goal is to get the buildings closed in before winter, Randell said. Bay Electric will be hooking up power to the building.
On Tuesday, Juntunen brought her students to the greenhouse to see the work the CTE students had done.
“I’m just thrilled they were able to finish it,” she said. “They’ve taken the initiative to problem-solve and help us out, and it’s just been wonderful. And they were able to meet the students that are going to be using it, so that’s good too.”