A greenhouse is an excellent addition to a school’s campus and curriculum. An educational greenhouse acts as a living classroom to provide hands-on learning that can’t be accessed in a traditional classroom setting. Educational greenhouses can be used for many different areas of study such as science, data, math, tech-ed, etc. Greenhouses and garden spaces also provide an opportunity for deeper community engagement and involvement from students, parents, and the community alike.
In this blog, we will present different greenhouse types and layouts appropriate for various levels of education, and provide case studies for each type so that you can get inspired for your own school’s greenhouse.
But before we get into the different educational greenhouse kits, there are a few things you should ask yourself and your academic team when planning for a school greenhouse:
- Is there land available on the campus to accommodate the greenhouse? (With a Ceres greenhouse design, we need the length to be oriented east to west for optimal sun exposure.)
- Who will be using the greenhouse/what age group?
- Who will be responsible for maintaining the greenhouse?
- What will you be growing?
- What size of greenhouse satisfies your need for gathering spaces, growing and storage areas?
- Will the greenhouse be standalone or connected to another structure?
As you consider how you would like to utilize the greenhouse, you will find yourself somewhere
on a sliding scale of a classroom greenhouse versus a production greenhouse. In a production space, you typically want to use as much greenhouse square footage for growing as possible. This could be a good fit for older students (high school & higher education), who might want to pursue a greenhouse grower/manager profession. The classroom design allows for more open space for student gathering, collaboration and work tables, etc., with grow systems and components taking up ~60% or less of the overall square footage.
Let’s get into the different greenhouse types by starting with the solution most appropriate for early education.
30’x50’ Elementary School Kit
The elementary and/or primary school kit design is intended to support hands-on learning for early childhood age groups. It’s never too early to spark interest about the natural world in the minds of students, and a greenhouse environment is the perfect place to get children excited about growing plants and learning where food comes from. This greenhouse design is fitting for schools that foster alternative learning methods or any school that would benefit from a year-round living classroom. This structure is also available in widths of 23’ or 18’ if a smaller option is needed.
Elements of an elementary school kit might include low raised beds for little bodies to explore soil-based growth and a classroom area for students to gather. It also might include an EcoPack™ HVAC solution if it’s a sealed design, which would make the learning environment quieter than if the space was using ventilation fans.
30’x50’ High School Kit #1
This educational kit is designed for high school students (or any educational level with similar goals) and can serve as a growing space and classroom for subjects like horticulture, biology, and living environment. We built this kit for a high school in New York (see below) and the students use the mobile raised beds to conduct lab experiments such as testing seed growth in different media. The greenhouse’s concrete floor makes it easy to move raised beds around and set up desks and chairs for class lessons. This greenhouse has a GAHT® System that allows the greenhouse to maintain a comfortable temperature year-round while saving the school money on energy costs.
Some add-on technologies that might be considered for this kit are vertical grow systems, compost systems, a nursery, supplemental lights, a SunSense™ controller, and/or shade cloth. This greenhouse kit also comes in width increments of 23’ and 18’.
23’x41’ High School Kit #2
This single-slope educational kit is another great option for high school level curriculum, or any level of education that would benefit from a flexible living classroom setting. Ceres built one of these designs for a private high school in Connecticut after working with the students on the design aspect of the structure. The student’s goal was to design a passive solar greenhouse for students learning about aquaponics systems. As you can see in the photos below, the students at the high school use the greenhouse space to build aquaponics systems and learn about the parts, purposes, and complexities of a greenhouse environment.
The greenhouse pictured below was designed with a GAHT® system, supplemental lighting, and fish tanks for the aquaponic systems, but it would also work well with the technologies mentioned under High School Kit #1.
30’x80’ Inline High School Kit
The inline educational greenhouse kit is beneficial for maximizing the growing space for production purposes while also having a combined warehouse space for classroom learning or storage. For example, the greenhouse pictured below is integrated with various growing systems to educate students on sustainable growing practices. Students might use the greenhouse portion of the design to learn about food production and grow food for kids in need, and they use the headhouse as a classroom space where they can do traditional classroom work.
For this design, it would be beneficial to seal the structure and install an EcoPack™ HVAC system to lessen equipment noise in the greenhouse and classroom spaces. And if the greenhouse is used for production, you might choose to grow with an aquaponics system and add supplemental lights.
30’x80’ North Headhouse Kit
We highly recommend the north headhouse kit for schools interested in a production greenhouse. As you can see in the render, the greenhouse space has a mix of growing systems and the classroom area is in the headhouse. The headhouse can also be used for post-production processing and/or fish tank storage. Ceres worked with a high school in southern California to design a greenhouse that would help teach students how to operate an aquaponics farm. The greenhouse space (see below) is used exclusively for production purposes and is integrated with hydroponics growing systems. The north headhouse contains the aquaponics fish tanks and is also used as a classroom space. This greenhouse design benefits the school’s strong sustainable ag program and supports students trying to gain applicable farming knowledge.
Technologies featured in the render above, and would be beneficial for this design, include a SunSense™ controller, a shade cloth, and supplemental lights.
Which one is right for your school?
At Ceres, we have designed greenhouses for every level of education, and through this process we have refined the planning process to offer solutions specific to different age groups and school curricula. If you are looking for a more customized greenhouse approach but would like to incorporate passive greenhouse principles into your project, Ceres offers a design development service to support your hired architect and/or structural engineer. If you’re inspired by any of the educational kits shown in this article, or you want to chat with an educational greenhouse expert about your school’s specific growing needs, contact us today!