Richard A. Menger
1993 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute
What started as an outdoor classroom project in 1975 on Baker High School's campus in Baker, Montana, has blossomed into a highly successful and popular curriculum. The course, Green Jeans Horticulture, was devised to accommodate students of average and below-average academic ability and provide them with practical horticultural experiences. Students learn such skills as pruning and plant propagation and leave the course ready for an above-entry level position in a horticulture establishment.
After planting more than 2,000 trees on campus that first year, a 12 by 16 greenhouse was added in 1977 with the aid of a $3,000 federal ESEA Title IV Incentive Grant. The response was so great that we have had to expand our greenhouse to 12 by 40 and since 1979 have taught two separate classes.
Another ESEA Title IV Grant was awarded in 1979, that time for $7,000. We added computer equipment including a color graphics system that enabled us to make floral arrangements, plan gardens and monitor the greenhouse. This grant also allowed students who normally wouldn't come into contact with computers to gain some valuable experiences.
With the aid of grants from the federal Title IV YCCIP program during 1980-82 we paid students to work in the program, part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. These grants totaled more than $30,000 and represented an enormous boost to the program. The federal money was used to build three parks in Fallon County which are still heavily used. The money paid for student salaries, equipment and items such as picnic tables and slides.
During 1982-83, an Incentive Nutrition Education grant for $5,300 was awarded to Green Jeans Horticulture. This enabled students to grow and prepare foodstuffs, learn their nutritional importance, prepare menus for food service and home use, and develop a cost analysis of such an enterprise. In cooperation with classes in a home economics course, a salad bar and tasting table were developed for sampling by hot lunch participants or by the senior citizens center.
Currently, there is a surplus of edible materials being produced by the Green Jeans program, resulting in some 120 pint jars of jelly from plums and apples harvested from trees in the shelter belt, a cultured wooded area on campus. These products are given away to faculty, staff and parents in the fall. Herbs, greens, berries and even mushrooms arc produced in the greenhouse or shelter belt. These are often used in home economics classes.
Regular-practical studies are given on topics such as plant propagation, soils fertilizers, pesticide use and tree pruning. After students have a working knowledge of these topics I also include maintenance and repair of garden tools, lawn care, floral arranging and landscaping. Green Jeans owns and operates two 7 h.p. Rototillers for soil conditioning and a tree limb shredder-chipper for mulch and composting projects.
In cooperation with home economics classes, this program continues to instruct students in the nutritional value of food and its relationship to human health, including mental and physical well being.
The vocational and recreational aspects of the biological sciences are fast becoming as important in education as those programs written especially for academically talented and college-bound students.
The Biology Department at Baker High School has never lost sight of designing programs to meet the needs of all students at the secondary level. Worthwhile programs such as Green Jeans give each participant a sense of pride and accomplishment and demonstrate that if the right teaching techniques are used, students are willing to learn.