2016-09-22 / Life in Leelanau

Northport students build hoop house

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

DASHEL COURSON mans the power drill, getting a little help from his Northport School fifth-grade classmates Cameron Merz, standing, Claudia Agosa and Keeley Twocrow.DASHEL COURSON mans the power drill, getting a little help from his Northport School fifth-grade classmates Cameron Merz, standing, Claudia Agosa and Keeley Twocrow.
Using power tools to build raised planting beds was just one of the hoop house lessons the project hopes to deliver to students of all ages at Northport Public School.

They’ll also learn about growing, harvesting and ways to eat the vegetables and other produce they plan to grow from both seeds and starter plants.

“It’s teaching them the basic building skills and how they can grow their own food,” said Keri Carpenter, the school’s new fifth-grade teacher. “It’s something they can take home and do with their family.”

On Friday students from several classrooms were working on putting together the raised beds for the nearly completed hoop house.

“It’s fun,” said fifth-grader Claudia Agosa, who was using a power screwdriver for the first time in her life.


KINDERGARTENER ALEJANDRO Mejia-Cook gets a little help with the power screwdriver from teacher Peter Morio. The school has built a hoop house and is putting together raised beds to grow produce. KINDERGARTENER ALEJANDRO Mejia-Cook gets a little help with the power screwdriver from teacher Peter Morio. The school has built a hoop house and is putting together raised beds to grow produce. Claudia wasn’t too enthused about growing vegetables, but said she may use her new skills to build a pen for her pit bull Snowflake.

Another fifth-grader, Yvonne St. Croix, loves fresh produce.

“Now we can have fresh fruits and vegetables for our lunches and breakfasts,” Yvonne said.

During the year volunteers will be responsible for helping students to plant and harvest the crop, with the food being used for classroom tastings and for cafeteria lunches.

Hoop houses, with their half-round hoop shapes covered in thick plastic, allow the growing season to start a little earlier in the spring and end a little later in the fall.

Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers are among the vegetables that will be grown. Volunteers, in fact, were planning on putting in some lettuce this week, which they’ll hopefully be able to harvest and serve up before the end of this year’s growing season.

Students’ hands-on hoop house activities will also be tied to several curriculums, including science and language arts. Younger art students will also create plant markers, while high school art students will paint murals on the ends of the hoop house.

In addition, Tara Bogart, a nutrition facilitator from the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, will visit the school to give the kids lessons on healthy habits and healthy eating.

Even kindergartners and first-graders got in on the act Friday, with most getting the opportunity to use power tools under the close supervision of kindergarten teacher Peter Morio.

Morio said the hoop house activities will engage all five senses for the students, making it seem less like learning.

“It gets them engaged in the learning,” Morio said. “It’s not sitting at a desk and reading out of a textbook. It’s hands-on learning.”

The school visited Bare Knuckle Farms in Leelanau Township to look at its hoop houses and get a little inspiration. Northport’s hoop structure is located off the west side of the school near the elementary wing.

It was built with a 2 percent grant of about $22,000 received from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Construction was done by the nonprofit SEEDS (Seeking Ecology Education and Design Solutions) Youth Conservation Corps. The project was one of the projects the Youth Corps worked on over the summer.

Rick McGee, crew supervisor, was on hand last week to oversee his crew, as well as give some of the younger students a lesson on using a 25-foot metal measuring tape.

“You guys probably use rulers,” McGee said. “This is like a really long ruler. It goes out 25 feet.”

The project also received a $500 grant from the Little Garden Club of Leelanau County that will be used to purchase seeds and starter plants.

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