Greenhouse grant cultivates vegetables and life skills

Grace Campell '25, Staff Writer

GREEN LIGHT FOR GREENS The South greenhouse, pictured above, will be a host for many multigreens planted by the Special Education Department. (Grace Campbell ’25)

This fall, the South Special Education Department is continuing its tradition of allowing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students to grow their own microgreens, sunflowers, and vegetables in the greenhouse. Once the crops are grown, they will sell them to local businesses such as Fresh Farms Market.

According to Assistant Principal Joseph Spryszack, the students grew and sold sunflowers last year, and they are going to do the same later this year, along with a few new plants.

“Right now is the time to get the seeds germinated, they’re working with tomatoes and pepper plants,” Spryszack said. “Ideally it will take three months and then we’ll have a new crop.”

Spryzack added that teaching special needs students this process does more than just increase their knowledge of gardening.

“The point of this is to teach our students and give them opportunities to understand, in general, the growing of plants,” Spryszack said, “But also to give them opportunities for social and community interaction.”

This project helps special needs students sharpen their social skills in a unique and safe setting.

“This (program) provides a really great opportunity for (others) to work with students from all of our classrooms, and also have us there to support them as needed,” Spryzak said.

According to ASD teacher Lauren Hancock, this opportunity is especially helpful to disabled underclassmen.

“This is especially good for freshmen and sophomores so that we can see their skills while doing different jobs before we send them outside of the building,” Hancock said. “This gets the ball rolling so that we can really dig in and see what students need to work on and what skills they have already established.”

Hancock said that they are selling the plants to Fresh Farms Market and within the school. She is also hoping to expand and sell to even more local businesses.

“The microgreens will go across the street to Fresh Farms, and then we plan on selling the tomatoes and green peppers in the building,” said Hancock. “At least to start off and then hopefully we can expand it to a larger base.”

According to Shelby Salajka, an ASD teacher at South, this opportunity is made possible through the Green House Prevocational Grant ran through the mother’s club at South.

“The grant was expanded this year,” Salajka said. “Hopefully it continues as the years go on.