The Pioneer sustainability club completed a two year project of refurbishing the greenhouse from its previous unusable conditions in December. The greenhouse’s new technology allows all students access to a commercial style setup for growing plants at Pioneer, and science teachers will be able to perform more elaborate experiments than what the school classrooms can allow.
Dustin Quandt, a science teacher at Pioneer and creator of the sustainability club, began teaching three years ago and noticed the greenhouse’s inoperative state. “The greenhouse was pretty much unusable,” said Quandt. “There was stuff growing everywhere, the benches used to be made out of wood and they were rotting, there was no lighting system and the sprinklers weren’t very functional.”
All of these issues were addressed in the renovations made; a spectrum lighting system (allows lighting for the plants to grow year-round) on a timer was set up, as well as an upgraded sprinkler system, metal benches, and a plant cloner. The greenhouse also has solar panels, which will be used for clean energy purposes by the sustainability club’s solar panel group. Most of the renovations were built to last for decades.
The sustainability club’s greenhouse group plans for two big projects for this year. The sustainability club will host a school wide salad-making event using the radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables grown within the greenhouse. They also aim to plant small succulents and, if they succeed in growing, sell them to Pioneer students.
Quandt plans to leave Pioneer after the end of semester one, yet Anne Ye, a junior and the leader of the greenhouse group, says that his departure will not affect the progress of the greenhouse. “We’re definitely going to continue on with our two projects,” she said. “We’ll try to do what we can to get the plants running and growing and hopefully we’ll see progress within the next few weeks.”
The renovations of the greenhouse were supported by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and a group called The Wolfpack, which is comprised of local community members who support sustainability programs. The Wolfpack donated thousands of dollars for this project and the NWF helped to organize the greenhouse.
This is not the first time these two organizations have collaborated with Pioneer to promote sustainability in Ann Arbor. In June, the NWF and The Wolfpack both assisted the sustainability club, as well as Pioneer teachers and alumni, in replanting the Pioneer Prairie with native flowers and grasses. The project’s aim was to increase the biodiversity of the prairie for pollinators, such as bees or butterflies.
Ye believes that sustainability is more important than ever before. “With a rapidly growing technology age right now, it’s important to consider some organic methods of incorporating plants,” Ye said. “This renovation is not just for the sustainability club… it’s also for students who want to plant plants for science fair projects or for teachers who want to use the greenhouse either for class assignments or just enjoyment. There’s a lot of ways to use a greenhouse as a resource.”