Every sixth grader in Jefferson County Schools spends a week at one of the districts two outdoor labs, Mt. Evans or Windy Peaks. Soon, those students will be learning in new greenhouse classrooms set for completion this fall.
“Our whole mission …
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“Our whole mission is experiential education, so we want kids to do things,” said the Mt. Evans Outdoor Lab Principal David Epp. “Years ago, through Healthy Schools, we started salad bars and composting at both sites. On a basic level (the greenhouse) helps us complete that cycle.”
On a higher level, Epp and the Outdoor Lab Foundation hope that the greenhouse classrooms unlock a myriad of science lessons for students.
Brian Sipes, of Sipes Architects, was the brain behind that. His number one goal in designing the greenhouse was to utilize as much sun as possible. To do this, the greenhouse takes an unusual shape with the front wall angled back at the exact angle of the sun. On the shortest days of the year, the sun will hit it perpendicularly. The top of the greenhouse angles to hit the sun perpendicularly on the longest days.
Sipes says this maximizes the sun and spreads the light.
Also featured in the greenhouses are water barrels that store excess solar energy, which will be in full sun in the winter, but shaded in the summer. This will allow the barrels to work as heaters and coolers.
“To me greenhouses are all about experience,” Sipes said. “To see green plants growing in winter, I think it will kickstart the learning environment and make students more curious about what is happening.”
Some lessons Sipes said he sees are about food growing and aquaponics. He also sees the water barrels as a source for learning.
“Partnering with Brain Sipes, they were able to create a building that has multiple uses,” Epp said. “There's so many lessons in the design of the building. We can do design and engineering classes; a deeper discussions about weather and heat transfer…”
The $200,000 project was funded by a variety of donors and grant gathered by the Outdoor Lab Foundation, whose mission, along with advocating for the program and engaging the community with the schools in a meaningful way, is to support the Mount Evans and Windy Peak Outdoor Lab schools directly.
Fundraising and planning at the Foundation continued for more than three years to make these projects a reality. Both Greenhouses were designed completely pro bono by Sipes & Sipes Architects. Jeff Meyers and Jonathan Reid provided engineering expertise and geotechnical services were donated by Nate Soule, of Lithos Engineering.
Generous contributions were made by the Rod and Ruth Greiner Family and the American Zang Education Preservation Foundation, Alex Campbell, IREA, King Soopers, Safeway and Co-Bank along with many individuals.
Donations for the project ranged from very small to very large.
“It's amazing that it's not just one group or one grant or one source of funding, but it's a lot of people who think this is important and believe that a building that will last 50-100 year is what our students need,” said Shannon Hancock, executive director of the Outdoor Lab Foundation. “The huge thing about this is it's indicative of how the community feels about Outdoor Lab.”
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