Students at a Greenhouse Venture after-school science class. Photo courtesy of Greenhouse Venture.

Students at a Greenhouse Venture after-school science class. Photo courtesy of Greenhouse Venture.

MONTERREY--The Greenhouse Venture--Growing Partnerships That Bear Fruit

Debbie Monterrey
May 09, 2018 - 11:51 am
Categories: 

by Debbie Monterrey, [email protected]

They say it takes a village, and when it comes to improving education and bringing together many different entities and schools, The Greenhouse Venture embodies that.

The Greenhouse Venture is a unique project aimed at offering STEM education and urban food production to hundreds of students in the Shaw neighborhood of South St. Louis City, and someday, beyond.

What seemed three years ago like a pipe dream to some is now an honoree for the prestigious "What's Right With the Region" award in the "Emerging Initiatives" category, sponsored by FOCUS St. Louis. (The 21st annual celebration is May 10th at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Grand Center).  

The Greenhouse Venture brings together four schools as part of the Urban Education Alliance: Tower Grove Christian, St. Margaret of Scotland (Catholic), Mullanphy (St. Louis Public) and St. Louis Language Immersion (Charter). 

"[We focus] on aquaponics and hydroponics for agriculture and bioscience," says Tom Purcell, president of The Greenhouse Venture Board. "So we're providing science at the elementary level for those four schools. Eventually we'll expand it."

Phase 3 at Detonty in Shaw. Photo courtesy of Greenhouse Venture.
Phase 3 at Detonty in Shaw. Photo courtesy of Greenhouse Venture.

The partnership is not just between those four elementary schools, but also involves Saint Louis University, Washington University, Harris-Stowe State University and St. Louis Community College.

Even the President/CEO of Cortex has taken notice. "The Green House Venture project is clearly an effort that can have a profound impact not only in the City of St. Louis, but as a demonstration project that others can copy elsewhere," says Dennis Lower. "In order to make St. Louis a nationally and internationally recognized city of innovation, all of us need to contribute our vision, resources and hard work in the development of meaningful initiatives."

Phases I and II are underway. Phase III (pictured above) is expected to be completed within the next two years (fundraising is still underway). It will be an 8,000 square foot science education and outreach facility. Initial plans for it include a greenhouse,  classrooms, an amphitheater, fish tanks, food preparation kitchen and a teaching lab. It's all designed to stimulate interest in science, urban food production, community engagement, sustainability and economic development.

Phase I is after-school science classes for children at the four participating schools (pictured below). Students are learning to plant and harvest, as well as cook healthy food. The hope eventually is to supply produce to children in need through school lunch programs and to take home to their families.

Phase II will be planting a terraced garden of native Missouri plants and pollinators on the I-44 embankment at the Grand exit and DeTonty starting within the next month. Not only will it add new life to an often ignored stretch, but will act as an experiment, exploring the feasibility of producing food on unused roadsides.

With the Shaw neighborhood, as well as the other neighborhoods around Tower Grove Park, continuing to grow and attract families, it's a perfect time for this project--especially one that celebrates the diversity of the neighborhood, including Catholic, Public, Christian and Charter schools. It's also in a perfect location--neighboring the Missouri Botanical Garden, near the Cortex district and in the shadow of major universities. Phase III (the greenhouse) will be adjacent to St. Margaret's Dragon's Grove school garden. 

Ideas and success continue to grow and blossom in South City!

Students at a Greenhouse Venture after-school science class. Photo courtesy of Greenhouse Venture.
Students at a Greenhouse Venture after-school science class. Photo courtesy of Greenhouse Venture.

                                                                     # # #