Through the years, the Memorial Middle School greenhouse has been a center of activity for students’ agricultural and science projects.
It’s also a place for aspiring teachers to get hands-on experience in their craft.
Tom Dormody, a visiting professor of agriculture from New Mexico State University, and a number of his graduate and undergraduate students are learning ways to teach science using agriculture and natural resource applications.
“They do a lot of hands-on lab work back at NMSU, but this year, I’ve decided to get them involved in doing some actual teaching. So we brought the students up here today to have a field day at Memorial Middle School and get a chance to teach,” Dormody said.
The Memorial greenhouse is considered a model for other schools. Greenhouse director Peter Skelton said it is unique.
“This is only happening in Las Vegas, it’s not happening anywhere else. We think we’re on to something really special,” he said.
“This program is completely unique in the country as far as we can determine,” he said.
Dormody said officials would like to add another dimension that includes a second day where students can be taken out in the field to work with technical experts.
Skelton said that would also bring career opportunities for students.
“It gives them the opportunity to interact with some of those resource professionals, and starts them thinking about what they might be interested in as far as a career goes,” Skelton said.
Skelton said the objectives of the day were to teach about the principles of agricultural science. He said there were four stations — two bottle biology stations are inside the greenhouse, one looking at decomposition processes and the other at environmental factors and how they affect plant growth. The outdoor stations are looking at water quality and soil testing.
“We think this is a nice way to have our students interact with university students. Hopefully, it will excite the kids about thinking about going to college and have our university students hone their teaching skills as they work with young people,” Skelton said.
Without hesitation, student Jose Maestas said what he had just learned.
“I learned how to adjust the soil PH, and the different textures of the quality, and how that pertains to planting. I also learned how to plant self-watering gardens. This is my favorite class.”
Science teacher Roberta Montaño has been teaching 29 years.
“We have short- and long-term projects, and it’s all hands on. Having these university students is wonderful for them and us. They get the opportunity to see what it’s really like to teach,” Montaño said.
NMSU graduate student Yvonne Diaz said she wasn’t fortunate enough to go to a high school with an ag program.
“I’m really excited about working in this kind of environment, I can’t wait to become a teacher. I’m not only teaching, I am also definitely learning a lot. I don’t come from a rural area, so I’m learning a lot from my classes, and especially from the kids,” Diaz said.