In mid- March, the lights dimmed, the students and staff went home to shelter in place, and the deafening silence filled the classrooms when Gov. Gretchen Witmer declared a stay-at-home order to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. But at the Kent Career Tech Center, the greenhouse right around the corner — and the chicken coop and bee station down the hill — were still buzzing with activities and sounds from the animals inside.
Roosters crowed and the hens clucked back.The plants were still growing and thriving, reaching their leaves to the sun. Heather Pratt, an instructor in the Tech Center’s Sustainable Agriscience program, and her assistant Angelica Varajas, a career and technical education specialist, take turns caring for fauna and flora alike while schools are closed.
They water and fertilize plants, disbud geraniums, tend to pesticide needs, weed and compost. They feed the chickens, collect their eggs, provide food and water for the rabbits, feed the fish, and tend to the honeybees. They will be visiting the greenhouse and animals until they hold a sale or otherwise distribute the plants, chickens, rabbits.
All keeps the greenhouse’s little world healthy while students are away. Said Angelica: “I like watching the students’ growth throughout the year and watching where they take these skills into the future.”
Added Heather: “My favorite part about Agriscience is creating opportunities for students to interact and learn about the world around them, and discover careers related to improving the environment and human interaction with it.”
Dianne Carroll Burdick has worked as a photojournalist in the West Michigan area since 1991. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she has photographed for The Grand Rapids Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Detroit Free Press, Advance Newspapers, Grand Rapids Magazine, BLUE Magazine and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting and thought provoking stories of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2016.