The Green House Venture offers an extensive education program in bio-science and urban agriculture with a focus on students in 4th to 6th grades. Our goal is to prepare them, not only to see that they have what it takes to become the scientists of the future, but also to be well-rounded human beings with exceptional talents and a world of possibilities before them.
In 2016, we began our collaboration with the four elementary schools in the Urban Education Alliance by working closely with the principals and science teachers to create the after-school Ambassadors Program.
This unique educational setting brings together a group of promising students from each school one afternoon a week to pursue an immersive eight-week experiment in growing plants under carefully controlled conditions. Participants hear presentations related to the experiment – often from faculty at our partnering universities. They also study the underlying science with undergraduate mentors, go on field trips, and enjoy an array of other activities that enhance their knowledge.
The work with our student Ambassadors has become the ideal incubator and initial testing site for much that goes into our other offerings, including the Classroom Outreach Program and our Summer Adventure Camp. Those learning opportunities also inform and excite students, not as much through books or presentations, but through hands-on experiments. Going further, we have also pioneered the design of computer-controlled growing chambers that allow students to control a wide range of variables in our experiments.
The Ambassadors Program is guided by a professionally developed, three-year curriculum* grounded in federal and state science standards. The first two years take students from the visible to the molecular in understanding the growth of plants. In the third year, we turn to Earth systems that affect food production, including climate change. Students also learn about steps that they and their families can take to conserve the environment. Along the way, they are challenged to wrap their
minds around age-appropriate lessons in Earth and atmospheric science, biology, chemistry, math, writing, art and public speaking.
Each semester, the Ambassadors conduct an experiment on edible plants, going from seed to harvest, studying the effects of variables such as light, wind, moisture and vital nutrients. Once a week, students record detailed measurements and observations in their notebook, capping off their observations on Harvest Day, which is the happiest class of the term. Afterwards, they analyze and graph their results, comparing them with their initial hypotheses.
Besides such major experiments, we do smaller ones that take only part of a session.
Students watch as photosynthesis creates oxygen
Blowing samples of various kinds of soil to see which ones are most vulnerable to erosion.
Each semester, we also go on field trips for various educational experiences:
Saint Louis University to launch a weather balloon.
The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at SLU to learn how to make healthy donuts.
The Venture's Embankment Greenway to do soil testing.
Tower Grove Park to work with high-school students testing pond water and sifting through mud for small forms of life.
Much of the Ambassador Program’s success is due to the participation of our higher education partners: St. Louis Community College, Harris-Stowe State University, Saint Louis University, Washington University, Saint Louis University High School and the Danforth Plant Science Center.
The high point of each year comes after the Ambassadors finish their first major experiment, when students are awarded lab jackets to show that they are really, truly scientists — or at least on their way.
SEMESTER 1: Visible Bases of Plant Development: Air, Soil, Light
SEMESTER 2: Molecular Bases: The Nutrient Cycles
SEMESTER 3: Visible Processes of Ecosystems: Sun, Plants, Animals, Water
SEMESTER 4: Molecular Processes: Soil-Based and Aquaponic Growing
SEMESTER 5: Earth Systems: Growing Zones, Weather, and Climate Change
SEMESTER 6: Ways to Restore, Conserve, and Sustain The Earth