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OMS E²CHO Class Goes Green

Ozark Middle School’s engineering and ecology class (E²CHO) instructor Mike Juchems has a vision of teaching his students how to grow food in a sustainable manner. Implementing this vision began several years ago with a grant from McDonald’s of the Ozarks to build a greenhouse at Ozark Middle School. Students participated in every aspect of the project, researching the best type of structure, the hardiest plants that could be grown year-round and eventually helping to build the greenhouse.

After a few years, a little flooding, and some un-watered plants, Juchems entered phase two of his vision: a rainwater collection system.

With support from the Ozark School District Foundation and the James River Basin Partnership, three rainwater collection systems were purchased and set up to eliminate the flooding problem while gravity feeding the greenhouse plants naturally. This fit in well with the classroom curriculum of exploring ways to save natural resources.

“Students are learning to build, plant and design systems that help grow food and live environmentally friendly,” Juchems said.

So far this year the barrels have collected more than 750 gallons of rainwater, which is used to maintain the greenhouse. But it doesn’t stop there. The class has now moved on to implementing a fertilization strategy for the greenhouse by creating worm farms.

“Our worm farms focus our attention on decomposition and compost to be used to feed our plants more naturally,” said Juchems, adding that students bring compost from home and recycled paper to feed the worms.

So far this year, the OMS engineering and ecology class has collected more than 750 gallons of rainwater in these barrels.