The prime objective of the Venture is to enhance STEAM education for students in urban elementary schools, with special emphasis on those who are underserved. Our method is to supplement the work of classroom teachers by offering their students hands-on activities designed to show what it is, not only to do fascinating science, but also to be scientists.
We begin by engaging students in asking intriguing questions and carrying out studies and experiments to answer them.
This we do on our four-acre campus (during brief field trips) and in school classrooms (during sustained sessions at the four schools in our Urban Education Alliance), where we support seed-to-harvest experiments in growing edible plants. In each activity, students gather information, measure, analyze, report, and reflect on what they’ve discovered. Along the way, they explore the scientific method, on-line research, mathematical analysis, graphing, artistic depiction, oral and written communication–and healthy cooking. Our aim throughout is to design each encounter to spark curiosity and illuminate the imagination.
Since our founding in 2015, our educational strategy has involved six main activities. Over recent years (until COVID interrupted us), we piloted the first three:
Ambassadors After-School Program
Our three-year pilot brought together teams of students in grades 4-6 from our partner schools in the Urban Education Alliance. Teams met weekly to carry out experiments, go on field trips, and prepare end-of-term presentations for their families, teachers, and friends.
Staffed by volunteer professionals, paid undergraduate mentors, and visiting scientists, the session introduced students to a wide range topics in Biology, Chemistry, and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Plans for our Education Center include expanding such programs and the age groups they address.
Classroom Outreach Program
When COVID struck, we were in the process of establishing relationships with teachers in Alliance Schools to help them offer hands-on science experiments they could not otherwise conduct for lack of time and funding.
Now led by a retired science teacher and elementary-school principal, the initiative allows teachers to conduct hundreds of eight-week growing experiments by changing lighting, temperature, and nutrients in computer-controlled growing chambers that we have pioneered. We provide curricular materials, supplies, and staff support. The Education Center and its endowment are designed to allow us to offer grants to schools throughout the region to receive similar services.
Adventure Summer Camp
Piloted as a three-week program in 2018 and 2019, we forged collaborations with Tower Grove Park (for nature experiences and sports) and with Saint Louis University (for lessons in growing and cooking healthy food).
Once the Education Center is open, we plan to offer more weekly camps, covering topics from identifying trees and wildlife to building growing chambers and bee hotels and cooking healthy food.
The last three of our main activities will be launched when the Education Center has been built, staffed, and transformed into a hive of activity. They include
Actual and virtual trips to the Center. The multiple classrooms and teaching areas in the facility will allow Alliance Schools to come for weekly sessions in science and other schools to visit for field-trips. The entire facility is designed as a broadcast studio, with servers to support live streaming, recording, archiving, and distribution. Its long-term mission is to become a lively regional and national source for curricular materials and online lessons that meet state and national standards.
Trips to Our Embankment Greenway and Gardens
Focusing on five ways to grow food in a city, our in-person and video presentations will engage classes along our Embankment Greenway, in our aquaponic greenhouse, on a light-weight, soilless “green” roof-top area, and in raised-bed and vertical-growing gardens adjacent to the facility. Everything on the GHV campus will be available for instruction, including native Missouri prairie and savannah plantings, habitats for butterflies and native ground bees, aquaponic raft-pools and hydroton beds, hydroponic towers, and bins for composting and vermiculture. Even glimpses of the center’s electrical wiring, plumbing, and broadcasting equipment will be open to view behind plexiglass.
Internet Access to Curricular Materials and Programming
Drawing on lessons piloted in our Ambassadors After-School Program, professional staff and volunteers will make available open-source materials, designs, and videos to teachers anywhere on the World Wide Web. As we branch out into further areas of science and education, we plan to invite school and university professionals to contribute ideas, graphics, and video recordings to make the Green House Venture a national force in science education.
The more personal side of our work will be to provide continuing opportunities for students and teachers. As staffing and resources permit, we will extend our current offerings in grades 4-6 to grades 7-8, and we will encourage teachers to share curricular ideas and materials with one another by internet and in summer workshops. Older students engaged in our summer camps, after-school programs, and classroom outreach activities will be involved in teaching younger students. As graduates of our programs go on, we will offer advice, support, and letters of recommendation to help them attend first-rate high schools, trade schools, and institutions of higher learning. As they reach maturity, we hope to engage them as speakers and mentors for our current students.
By our integrated efforts to support STEAM education in St. Louis, the Green House Venture hopes to play a significant role in supporting the research centers, foundations, and corporations that make the region the nation’s leading hub for bio-science, agriculture, and geo-spatial research.
Above all, our dream is to use our resources and our wealth of partnerships to equip students, both nearby and at a distance, to escape the limitations of their circumstances, to engage their curiosity, to find their life passions, and to flourish, providing for their families and engaging their minds in challenging callings that bring benefits to us all.