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Canyon Springs learns about the greenhouse effect

Special-needs students receive hands-on lessons

Posted: June 11, 2009 9:12 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

For 25 students at Canyon Springs Community School, a student-run greenhouse on campus has turned into a second classroom that gives the special-needs students opportunities to take part in hands-on lessons about solar energy, composting and conservation.

“I’ve never seen kids so motivated to work, than when we were out there doing the activities,” said Wendy Shaner, the special day class teacher for Canyon Springs fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.

The garden is home to all sorts of produce that includes bell peppers, jalapenos and radishes. A towering sunflower hangs over the greenhouse, and a solar-powered fountain decorates the greenery.

Jocelyn Ventura, 10, enjoys learning about the solar fountain and how it works.

“The sun comes at it (and it) blocks it and the water stops,” she said.

The greenhouse, built by Shaner, students and supporters in November, is a place on campus where Shaner’s 14 students and the 11 deaf and hard of hearing students from Diane Aguinaldo’s class meet to tend to the garden. The students also work with the pre-school and kindergarten students by giving them tours and lessons.

Even though the school year is just about over, the kids plan to enhance the greenhouse over the summer thanks to a $10,000 “A+ For Energy” grant from BP the school received in May. The Canyon Country school received its first BP grant in 2008, Shaner said.

Those dollars will go towards a misting and sprinkler system for the greenhouse, another compost bin and even a solar-powered pond, Shaner said.

In addition, the students have plans to add to the garden and host a farmer’s market for the community during the 2009-10 school year, Shaner said. There is also talk of local high schools visiting the greenhouse to learn about the students’ efforts.

Throughout the school year, Shaner organized lessons and projects for the students to bring concepts like conservation to life.

In one activity, students used kits to build their own solar cars to race outside, she said.

“They had to understand the concept of solar energy to make the car move,” she said.

Part of the lesson took the students to Castaic Lake Water Agency’s Conservatory Garden and Learning Center in Saugus, where students learned about drought-tolerant plants and water usage.

The experience comes as a boost to many of the students who face difficulties communicating and learning in the classroom.

“It really made a difference for their self-esteem,” she said.

The lessons go beyond conservation as maintaining a garden teaches children about work ethics.

“Right when they get there, they immediately start working together,” said Hunter Michael, an instructional assistant who works with the students.



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