The Greenhouse Academy

Tucked away in Thorndale, Ontario, just outside the eastern boundary of London, is a 60,000 square foot, student-run greenhouse. Currently, the greenhouse is packed with Norway spruce that were planted and cared for by Thames Valley students. In the coming months, the greenhouse will grow trees, fresh-cut flowers and vegetables for the food bank.

When local landscape contractor Jeff Crosby purchased the former Jensen Greenhouse property in 2015, he knew he wanted to use a portion of the property to establish some sort of teaching site for students. Jeff was introduced to Thames Valley's Angie Roth, Learning Coordinator, Student Pathways for Success at Thames Valley, who was looking to create opportunities for students to gain valuable real-world learning experiences outside of the classroom. Together, they brought the beginnings of their idea to Innovation Works, a London co-working space designed to encourage social innovation. There, the idea for The Greenhouse Academy was refined.

"For the last two years we have been working towards building a facility that can serve as a hands-on educational resource for young learners," says Mike Crosby, Co-Owner of The Greenhouse Academy. "It's been two years of renovating, brainstorming, learning, adapting and imagining."

Since the greenhouse's launch last summer, over 250 students have worked to get the greenhouse up and running. Students come for the entire day once a week and take part in a number of different hands-on tasks, gain work experience and connect their classroom learning to a real-world setting.

"Students learn best when what they are learning is real and relevant," says Angie. "At the greenhouse, students have the opportunity to collaborate, problem solve, manage inventory, advertise, sell, use social media, balance finances, and deal with everyday scenarios of the work force."

Students also learn about the environment, healthy eating, long-term planning, poverty reduction, entrepreneurship and much more. "It is a truly amazing facility meant to inspire creativity and promote learning," says Jeff.

"Providing our students with opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills that will lead them to become personally successful, economically productive, and actively engaged citizens is a priority for us," says Angie. "We can't be more thrilled with this partnership and are excited for more students to get the opportunity to experience The Greenhouse Academy."



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