Teacher offers hands-on earth science in student designed and built grow dome

OSCEOLA COUNTY — In recognition of his achievements in agri-science education at Reed City High School, Jerry Hoppes has been nominated by the Osceola County Farm Bureau for Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2013 Educator of the Year. The purpose of the award is to recognize teachers who have done an outstanding job of integrating basic agricultural concepts in the school curriculum, developed problem solving skills through analysis and show consistent teaching excellence. Hoppes has been a teacher for 17 years and has been employed at Reed City High School since 1999. “Kids love his teaching style as it is hands on and learning by doing,” said Steven Westhoff, superintendent of Reed City Area Public Schools. Hoppes is currently teaching Biodome class, Earth Science, Biology and Outdoor Education to approximately 250 students. Reed City High School has a 51’ diameter geodesic growing dome green house that was constructed in the fall of 2010 and has 2,200 square feet of ground space. Reed City High School is the first northern Michigan school to have a growing dome. Hoppes’ Landscape Design class designed and built the perimeter growing beds which now have a variety of herbs and vegetables growing in them. The beds help insulate the base of the building and help regulate the internal climate. Students have a chance for hands-on-experiences with potted plants, flowers and vegetables. They do research to determine the types of soils needed. They also learn how to make tradition soil beds and the raised bed gardening along with the district’s recycling program using semi tires as framework for raised beds. The biodome class teaches vermiculture composing and soil classification, hydroponics and aquaponic systems. They incorporate alternative energy projects to help with production in the class. There are two large ponds inside the done; one has 300 perch in it. The nitrogen from the water feeds plants that are in beds 6 feet above the ponds. Students must test water quality daily and record their findings. Students learn about pest control and safe ways to reduce or get rid of them. They must detect and determine if there are nutrient deficiencies with the plants they are growing. The growing dome is an awesome learning environment that would not be possible without the Biodome program. This spring students will be planting RCHS’s own apple orchard. “When I visited with Mr. Hoppes at the high school, he gave me take a tour of the biodome and his classroom. He is excited about what he is teaching and that energy is passed on to his students,” said Janet Schmidt, with the Osceola County Farm Bureau.