REED CITY — As the sunlight reflected off the pristine panels of the newly-built geodesic dome at Reed City High School, students and staff alike were fascinated with a prototype hydroponic system, a method of growing plants without the use of soil.

Now, three and a half years later, the “Biodome” houses not only a state-of-the-art hydroponic system, but soil gardening, aquaponic systems, nutrient flow systems and a multitude of plants, trees and fish as well.

Instituted by Reed City science teachers Jerry Hoppes and Brad Smith, the dome continues to survive in light of its creators’ initial goals.

“We wanted not just a greenhouse, but a green greenhouse,” Hoppes said. “We wanted to be off the grid. You can get more for your buck if you do it the way we’re doing it, with the hydroponic systems and fish farming, and just using what you’ve got.”

With its advanced hydroponic system, lights and other upgrades, the Biodome has certainly promoted its identity as a “green greenhouse,” using lesser-known methods to foster the growth and thriving of its small ecological system. What began as an intended learning opportunity for high school students has flowered into a new, ever-updating project for not only the high school, but the community as well.

Within the school, Hoppes currently offers a Biodome class, educating 10th through 12th graders. The class is just as popular, and perhaps even more popular, than it was in years previous.

According to Hoppes, the students take care of the Biodome, keeping it in good condition while starting and maintaining projects of their own.

The Biodome, part of what the school appropriately calls the Growing Dome Project, has expanded its function as a learning opportunity as well. Rather than simply letting students have a hands-on experience, it has allowed them to become more integrated in both their school community and Reed City in general.

“We’re getting the community involved,” Hoppes said. “We used to do community service, and now we’re opening the dome back up to get community support. We get leaves and grass from the city, which is helping us out. We also open the dome up to about 8 homeowners in the area to dump their grass and leaves here year-round.”

The dome also is involved in projects to utilize the high school’s recycling chain, collaboration with a local health department to spread awareness of obesity and selling its produce as organic vegan alternatives to local stores.

Even with the successful evolution of the Biodome, Hoppes has no intention of slowing down. His class plans on building new fencing and gates and even a mini hoop house.

“The hoop house will allow us to get the plants in the ground by April 1. So we’re going to have all our plants started in the dome prior to April 1, and we’ll have them in the ground April 1, while everyone else is going to wait until memorial weekend. We’re going to have our stuff in the ground 2 months ahead of schedule.”

Hoppes and his class thank all of their supporters and welcome community volunteers and donations, especially donations toward the hoop house project, which will cost close to $2,000 to get finished. Hoppes encourages those interested to contact him.

For more information about the Growing Dome Project, visit