The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 20, 2014

Students construct vegetable beds, greenhouse

Produce from the gardening project to be used in Geneva High School cafeteria


Star Beacon

GENEVA — When March began, Geneva High School sophomores knew they would be preparing for more than just the coming of spring. The Ohio Graduation Tests (OGTs) are required tests for all 10th-graders in Ohio and were administered during the week of March 10 to 14. However, this year marks the first time that school had to be canceled due to weather on a test day. The writing test was made up on March 17.

For two weeks prior to testing dates, many classes reviewed by doing bell-ringers and practice exams as classwork.

“I have my students review old tests and I try to give them specific directions on how to attack each question and figure out what the multiple choice questions are reaching for. A lot of times students need a refresher because the material on the OGTs is cumulative of things they’ve learned over the years,” said Donald Shymske, high school history teacher.

School administrators provided all test takers with breakfast, paid for by the sophomore class.

“Good nutrition is important to help the students think clearly and focus,” said principal Douglas Wetherholt.

Other motivations for students to come into school and take the OGTs were the prize drawings held at the end of each testing day. Randomly selected test-takers received items such as gift cards. What students may not know is that these incentives are sponsored by GHS teachers. All year long, teachers are permitted to wear jeans on Fridays if they pay $1 toward an OGT fund.

Advancements in technology happen every day, and GHS is no exception. “While technology such as SMART-boards and slates are not new, they are relatively new in our school, having been implemented within the past five years,” Wetherholt said.

The SMART-boards offer interactive and exciting tools for lesson planning and teachers can opt to use PowerPoint presentations, graphs, sounds and even videos to help visual learners.

“In this technological age, where students actively use computers and video games, teaching with technology is a way to relate to and engage students,” said Frank Carraher, high school math teacher.

Another new development is under way in the high school’s science department. Construction recently began on six raised vegetable beds in one of the school courtyards. Intervention specialist Brad Hunt and science teacher John Barbo will oversee further construction of the beds, as well as a greenhouse, once the snow is gone. The greenhouse will be built from a home construction kit, and will be about 8.5 feet by 20 feet. The kit and supplies were purchased by the funds left from the classes of 2010 and 2013.

The greenhouse and vegetable beds will be used to grow peppers, tomatoes and lettuce. Barbo hopes the produce can be used in the cafeteria next fall.

“We want the kids to learn more about food production,” he said. The beds will also be used for science projects.

Barbo said, “Ultimately, we want to use the beds to test the pH of the soil and test for other elements as a learning experience.”

Mostly heirloom seeds will be used when planting the beds and greenhouse. Heirloom seeds rely naturally on insects and the wind for pollination, and promote genetic diversity.

Mr. Barbo said, “Some of the seeds that will be planted date back to the 1800s.”

The 19th annual Breakfast of Champions will be held on March 28 at the Lodge & Conference Center at Geneva-on-the-Lake. This event recognizes the academic achievement of the top 25 students in each grade level with a breakfast buffet and certificate. The breakfast was originally held at the Memorial Hospital of Geneva, and later moved to the Geneva Community Center. But after 15 years, it was moved to the lodge in order to have more room for parents and grandparents to attend.

“This event is paid for by the Rotary Club of Geneva as a way to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our students,” said chairman Ford Behm.

This year’s speaker is Billie Dunn, who graduated from Geneva High School in 1995. She was a star of the high school swim team, and went on to compete at Cleveland State University, where she earned her master’s degree. Dunn is the vice president of student affairs at Lake Erie College.