When Gov. Bill Richardson sat with kids from Rio Gallinas School in the spring of 2006, he asked the seventh- and eight-grade classes for a wish list.
The top two requests were for a school bus and a greenhouse.
“In the summer of 2006, staff from the school met with the governor and he gave us the new school bus that we now have, but only said ‘maybe’ to the greenhouse,” teacher John McLeod said. “The kids went to the Legislature in 2007 to lobby for money for the greenhouse. One of the results of that was that we got $15,000 for the greenhouse.”
Last year, students worked on a “green machine design project” with each student creating a design for a 120-square-foot structure that could catch, store and use water and energy using green building materials.
McLeod said a kit produced by Growing Spaces of Pagosa Springs, Colo., really matched a lot of what students at the school were designing.
“Charter schools are free public schools that were founded by the federal government to bring innovation into our country’s educational systems. This dome project is part of a larger schoolwide expedition titled ‘Growing the Whole Enchilada’ where students will be actively researching and engaging in the study of local farming, agricultural experimentations, fieldwork to meet those in our state who grow our enchilada ingredients, migrant worker issues, and documenting and celebrating growers in our region,” McLeod said.
The greenhouse, on Socorro Street, is a 33-foot geodesic Grow Dome and is part of the school’s environmental program and is being built on land Amigos de Rio Gallinas, a nonprofit organization, purchased to give the school more flexibility in its programming.
McLeod said construction of Grow Dome began last week with students, parents, volunteers and staff working on it.
“We have been working on designs for greenhouses since last year, and we’re really excited this year to actually have hands-on involvement in helping to build the dome. We’re going to grow food and different kinds of plants,” eighth-grader Xini McFall said.
Fellow student Kiana Davis said, “It’s really fun, and it’s great that we get to all do it together.”
Justin Saiz, an eighth-grader, said he’s learned a lot and is looking forward to being able to eat the fresh produce grown by students.
“In partnership with the firm that produces the Grow Dome, our school will be researching the unique factors of the greenhouse,” eighth-grade teacher and environmental scientist Roberto Treviso said.
“We believe that we can provide authentic research on how the systems in this dome work for growing plants.”