Historic Jr. High greenhouse takes on new life

Life sciences teacher Cristi Prenger talks with students inside the QJHS greenhouse.

A piece of Quincy's educational history has taken on new life.

The greenhouse at Quincy Junior High opened in 1933 as part of the then Quincy High School building at 11th and Maine Street. Over the years the greenhouse fell into disrepair.

Now after major renovations, the greenhouse is back to full use - growing new plants and green thumbs.

Until last fall, the greenhouse at Quincy Junior High School held storage boxes, not plants. But junior high principal Dan Sparrow made the move to bring botany back into the classroom. He tapped life sciences teacher Cristi Prenger for the project.

"It was filthy and dirty," Prenger said. "It took a lot of elbow grease but the kids really enjoyed helping out on it."

Word spread about the greenhouse. Local businesses pitched in. Donations like these plants gave students their start with new cuttings and plant anatomy. Click here to learn more about the skills taught in the greenhouse from KHQA This Morning.

Prenger says it was an eye-opening experience.

"I pulled the plant out like this and showed kids how we would be repotting things," Prenger said. "That's when kids asked, 'What is all that white stuff?' I was totally shocked they didn't know what roots were. So that led me to believe there is a lot of instruction that needs to be done with plants."

Classes here go beyond basic plant care and maintenance. Click here to learn about the classes which are utilizing the greenhouse.

We're taking it into the classroom with microscopes and and looking at the parts of the plants, seeing what the cells are going to look like," Prenger said.

"We're so used to living animals having necessary things like a heart and a blood system, but plants are completely different," 7th grader Riley Scranton said. "They don't have all the internal organs that we have. So it's interesting to see that there are different ways of living."

And it's fulfilling to see their handiwork firsthand for students like Elizabeth Baughman.

"I love to watch the plant as it grows," Baughman said. "It can start as a sprout and grow to a pretty flower." Click here to hear from students of the life sciences classes.

"This really brings the hands on part of science into the classroom," Prenger said. "I get the kids out here, they get their hands dirty and it's a great experience for them. They are skills that will last a lifetime."

The panes of glass were replaced with an "Adopt a Pane Campaign," back in 2005.

A recent grant from the Quincy Public Schools Foundation enabled Prenger to purchase microscopes and other equipment to utilize the greenhouse.

More work is planned for the greenhouse. Prenger hopes to utilize the old fountain area as a fish pond. Also work is planned on the wooden structure and window panes. Click here to view future plans for the structure.