Although the greenhouse at Glen Burnie High School is attached to biology teacher Stephanie Joyner’s classroom, she said the greenhouse really belongs to the students—and not her.
Joyner said she can’t wait to begin renovations on the greenhouse this school year so the entire student body can take advantage of it. The renovations will be paid for with a grant she received from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) in Baltimore.
The news of receiving the Teaching the Food System Grant for Educators came as a complete surprise, Joyner said. One of 10 recipients in the state, she is the only one from Anne Arundel County.
“I said, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Thank you! You made my day,’” she recalled of the phone call she received late last month.
Joyner plans to use the money to buy screens for the greenhouse, which measures about 35 feet by 15 feet and is visible from the Ritchie Highway side of the campus, as well as make other repairs. The lack of screens made growing anything nearly impossible because there was so much sunlight generating a lot of heat, she said.
“We tried to grow a few plants at first,” she said. “Everything we attempted to grow, the temperature was way too excessive.”
So when Joyner, a 10-year teaching veteran who is in her third year at Glen Burnie, saw an email from her district science coordinator announcing the grant, she said she knew she had to apply. She had to prepare a detailed application, including a budget of how the money would be used.
The grants of up to $2,000 are for teachers who become early adopters of the CLF’s new, free, downloadable Teaching the Food System curriculum, which emphasizes the relationships among food, public health, diet and the environment.
Brent Kim, who helped select the recipients for the CLF, declined to say how large Joyner’s grant was because the amount is based on the project. But he was impressed with her application, he said.
“She had a fantastic application and is clearly passionate about her work. We liked her ideas about how to use the curriculum,” he said.
That passion is evident as Joyner offers a tour of the greenhouse during her planning period Wednesday. The greenhouse had been used for other purposes, such as a storage area for the janitors because no one else was using it, she said.
Joyner was able to get the space cleared of other equipment. It’s now vacant, except for rows of wooden tables, some ladders and plant pots. And her students have stepped up to offer ideas of how they’d like the project to proceed, she said.
“This is a student-driven project, so they will enjoy the fruits of their own labor. The kids want to use it. It’s an untapped resource,” she said. “I’ve just been the facilitator, really.”
Those ideas include growing fruits and vegetables from seeds whenever possible, said Joyner, who also has a background in horticulture and feeds almost all organic food to her family. They also are considering using some cuttings to start the process.
“Most of these kids have never seen fruits and vegetables grow. They go to the grocery store,” she said. “Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels. Our children need this. I want to empower them to make better choices for their future.”